Chester, Pennsylvania has a population of approximately 34,000. Yet it currently ranks among the four American cities with the highest per-capita murder rate and as one of the “most dangerous,” which takes into account the number of violent crimes per 1,000 residents. You have a one in forty-six chance of becoming a victim of a violent crime in Chester. Thirty minutes away in Philadelphia, with a population of 1,500,000, you have a one in ninety-one chance. New York City does not even rate in the top 100 most dangerous cities.
The violence in Chester is persistent and permeating. Photographer and visual artist Justin Maxon has spent seven years collecting stories from families in Chester who have lost a loved one to murder and feel that justice was not served. Maxon’s work from Chester has led to his projects When the Spirit Moves and Heaven’s Gain, which Maxon calls visual “investigations into the emotional, physical and spiritual landscape that transpires from unresolved trauma.”
One such story is from David Simms, who lost his twenty-one-year-old brother Daniel on August 5, 2011, when he was shot and killed by a local police officer. His death incited local protests and Simms’ family demanded the officer be dismissed. An investigation by the Delaware Country District Attorney cleared the officer, finding Simms had pointed a loaded handgun at the officer.
– Zara Katz
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Justin Maxon was born in a small town in the woods of northern California. A visual artist and journalist, his seven-year project documenting the social environment of Chester, Pennsylvania has been supported through grants from the Magnum Foundation Emergency Fund, FotoVisura, the Alexia Foundation for World Peace, and the Aaron Siskind Foudation. Instagram: justinmeadmaxon.
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