United States

Liberal Gun Owners
Do you trust these people? You don’t know them, but they all are photographed holding guns, and that may give you an immediate feeling about them. Some might trust these people more because they appear strong, confident, and competent holding their firearms. They can protect themselves and their families. Many others might immediately distrust them. Guns symbolize a sort of rugged individualism and portend violence. Some might even feel like a person with a gun is unhinged, unable to be trusted at all. Would it change your opinion if you knew their political affiliations? While most think of gun owners as right-leaning, each of the people depicted in these photographs identifies as a liberal and they come from many different backgrounds and experiences. They include a transgender couple who live in a conservative state, an immigrant from Russia who views training with firearms as a martial art, a son of Mexican immigrants who believes minorities should arm themselves for protection because the police often can’t or won’t protect them, a funeral director who sees death every day but chooses to have firearms to protect his family, and a teacher who owns guns because he finds shooting meditative and relaxing.

These photographs force viewers to confront how their own perceptions and stereotypes influence how they trust another person in the first instance. A viewer’s initial instinct about whether they would trust or not trust these people is based solely on their perception of how the subjects look and the object they are holding. As we become a more polarized and distant society, it’s important that we think about trusting each other based on lived experiences rather than fleeting perceptions.

Eric Hanson was born by the beach and lives on the hill in Los Angeles. Growing up, Hanson’s father dragged him to galleries and museums around the city. Hanson didn’t take the hint and trained as a lawyer, working for more than a decade as a patent litigator. Mid-career he realized he had taken a wrong turn and began focusing on an art and photography practice. 

Eric Hanson (US) "Liberal Gun Owners" - Helphoto 2020
Eric Hanson (US) "Liberal Gun Owners" - Helphoto 2020