A photo essay by Gary Walts

My father was a troubled man. Just how much so became clear when on a hot summer afternoon he sat on the edge of his bed, placed a rifle under his chin and took his life. That was ten years ago. His suicide brought to a screaming halt a photo study I had begun shortly before, documenting how he lived and his relationship with his youngest son, my brother Bruce.

Needless to say, the event had a powerful effect on me. I was shattered and heartbroken. I took what film and negatives I had of my father and filed them away. Until last year I never printed any of them. I never looked at them. I never showed them to anyone.

Last year, a friend and fellow staff photographer for the Syracuse Newspapers, Carl Single, stunned all who knew him by committing suicide. Carl's unexpected death was my second close exposure to suicide. It brought back a flood of emotions and memories about my father. It gave me the impetus to finally talk about my father's suicide. I decided it was about time I shared with others my father's troubled life through the photographs that I kept hidden all those years. I present a selection of those photos here.

For the first time someone besides myself will view them – which makes me feel like a naked man. The whole subject is still very uncomfortable for me. However, suicide is a deep, dark subject that few are willing to address. Too often it is treated as a taboo subject, best ignored, left alone and not talked about. I am torn about it. Part of me wants to let this sleeping dog lie for another ten years. However, regardless of the consequences, I am kicking it awake, right here and now.

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