We found ourselves back in Wilson, North Carolina after Burk had shared with us that he had connected with a group of former gang members that have entered a leadership program and are doing community work. One of the people, Theophilus Newkirk, was a late addition to the Greenville show. Shirtless, photographed from the back, against a wall with a portion of his 60 tattoos in evidence.
What was not seen in that image was the 11 gunshot wounds that he received one night in January 2016 while visiting his father with his girlfriend, Lawanna and one of her friends, who also got shot 9 times that evening. The irony was that he was not even the ultimate target. The shooter, who Theophilus had known since he was a toddler was looking for a friend of Theophilus’ that he could not locate.
Theophilus was generous enough to allow us to film him being photographed and to document his bullet wounds. Both he and Lawanna also shared much during interviews with us. Burk’s plan is to photograph many of the gang members and document their stories for his next series.
"The highway is the enemy of photographers"
I was fortunate enough to witness the accuracy of that Burkism as we drove cross country from Asheville, NC to Salt Lake City, Utah over the course of 11 days. Getting purposefully lost on backroads through eastern NC, Tennessee, and Arkansas, we stumbled upon some true gems that Burk turned into wonderful photographs.
I turned 36 in Zion, Utah. I cannot accurately express the joy of seeing Zion for the first time in combination with filming Burk doing what he does best - seeing an idea, walking out to the periphery of that idea, tilting the perspective on the ordinary, and pulling a beautiful composition together.
"36 and 1 Day..."
The day after my birthday, we thought it would be good idea if I got strapped to the roof of Burk's van and filmed the drive through Zion Canyon. Both the footage and I surived, saving Burk from the dark task of explaining to an auditorium full of students and teachers that the film has been delayed indefintely due to the cinematographer having gone flipping off the roof rack and into the great wilderness beyond - his only visitors, the mountain goats who notice his broken body laying amongst their favorite balancing rocks.
We visited the Waterford School in Salt Lake City at the end of the road trip. Burk had been invited as a visiting artist and lecturer for arts week. Bernie Meyers, the head of the photo deparment, is one of Burk's closest friends. The Waterford School is one of the finest examples of what is possible in Liberal Arts education that I've experienced.