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We can make a lasting impact if we can identify with others across poverty, class, race and the other divisions.

Sense of Community 

With friends and family, Billy Simms (left) celebrates the birthday of his brother, Ray Simms, on June 24, 2012. Ray was shot to death at the corner of Leon and Broad streets in Durham on May 21, 2005. Police have not found the killer or determined a motive.

Photo by Justin Cook

With friends and family, Billy Simms (left) celebrates the birthday of his brother, Ray Simms, on June 24, 2012. Ray was shot to death at the corner of Leon and Broad streets in Durham on May 21, 2005. Police have not found the killer or determined a motive.

I'm Justin, the new guy at INDY Week. I love pictures, stories and people. I also love Durham, especially the stories at the margins of the city.

Durham is my home, but it is also home to a lot of ghosts. The specters of segregation, urban renewal, deindustrialization and mass incarceration linger here. As a result, there are communities divorced from the downtown resurgence and plagued with congenital poverty and violence.

Since 2006 I have been working on a documentary photography project that takes an unfiltered look at the neighborhoods and families haunted by violence in the Bull City. I plan to regularly share some of these images with readers here.The vital connections to these communities are often overlooked and underreported. Their stories are not being heard; their losses not being properly mourned; their loved ones not remembered.

Those affected by the violence in Durham have become part of a vocal, growing group composed of people from all walks of life. They are the families of the slain, survivors, grief counselors, morticians, concerned neighbors, ministers and public servants.

And me, the documentarian.

We can make a lasting impact if we can identify with others across poverty, class, race and the other divisions.

Pictures can educate, elevate and change the conversation, just as they have changed me.

See more of Justin's work at www.justincookphoto.com.

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