You hear a knock on your door. You open it to reveal the veterinarians. You call your dog to you and you know it’s time. They begin their procedure and you begin crying. They tell you he’s gone. Suddenly, you hear the click of a camera shutter.
Ross Taylor is a photojournalist currently working as a professor at the University of Colorado Boulder. Taylor’s work in photojournalism has led him across the globe. From Mexico to India, Taylor has traversed the world working on documentary photography.
Now, a project Taylor has simply called his “pet euthanasia project” has brought him into the homes of families across the country as they say their final goodbyes to their beloved pets. This project deals with love and loss and how we as humans deal with the pain of having to put down a member of our family.
Taylor is no stranger to moments of heightened emotions. Taylor spent two weeks at a trauma hospital in Afghanistan documenting everything he could. This led him to seeing the extent of human brutality. Men beaten and bruised, bodies damaged from landmines and soldiers punctured with bullet holes. Soldiers who arrived here were in the worst conditions fighting for their lives. All the while, Taylor documented everything, from the surgeries to the recoveries.
“That was definitely one of the most intense experiences. You’re seeing peoples’ bodies broken and bodies open.” Taylor said.
When asked how he ended up in these situations, Taylor said, “I’m always interested in intense situations, especially documenting arenas that are hard to access. I feel I can contribute more by documenting spaces that are rarely seen in media.” Documentary photography has been a way for people to show what is happening to people in a way that words cannot.
Taylor comes from a small town on the East Coast where he first was introduced to photography.
“I wanted to spend more time with my dad, who was an amateur photographer,” Taylor said. “He showed me how to use a camera, and I was hooked.”
Taylor described an internship as a key starting point in his career, saying he was amazed you could be paid as a photojournalist, and he was locked in from there. Coming from a small town, Taylor said, “Photography was a gateway to other peoples’ lives… It was basically, what’s around that corner, and then what’s around that corner.”
James Nachtwey, Eugene Richards and David Guttenfelder are all photojournalists that Taylor credits as being some of his inspirations when he started in photojournalism. Nachtwey was a war photographer, Richards focused on documentary work raising social awareness and Guttenfelder is a photojournalist known for his intense work inside North Korea.
Taylor’s photography has always revolved around moments of heightened emotions or trauma. When asked how a small-town boy ended up covering these life changing moments Taylor said, “It was incrementally. I long wanted to explore working in other countries, beginning in Mexico, which led to a trip to Costa Rica, then to India.” During Taylor’s time in India, he experienced to what it was like to report on conflict in Kashmir and decided he wanted to learn more about it. This time in India ultimately led him to Iraq, where he embedded with a few different groups of soldiers. This then inspired Taylor to propose a project to embed himself in Afghanistan.
Taylor now teaches photojournalism classes at the University of Colorado Boulder, though he has not ended his work in documentary photography. Robin Fox, a student of Taylor’s, said, “Overall, I think I have hugely benefitted from having Ross as a professor; both as a journalist and as a photographer. Ross is dedicated to seeing his students do well and does an amazing job of encouraging and teaching at the same time.”
Taylor was previously a visiting professor for the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and was originally hired as one at the University of Colorado Boulder. This led Taylor to a tenure track. When asked about working at CU Boulder, Taylor said he felt lucky.
Taylor has always worked to create a community for photojournalists. Taylor started the website The Image Deconstructedaround seven years ago and still helps run it today. Taylor created the site “out of a desire to create a space where people would talk about the ideas behind images. There were many websites that already discussed tools, gear, etc. but few that talked about how images were made.” The Image Deconstructed has helped breakdown hundreds of photos and photo-stories over the time since it was created.
Nick Cote, a photojournalist based out of Boulder, Colorado, said that the Image Deconstructed helped him and Taylor become friends. Taylor runs a workshop under the same name and when he moved to Colorado, the workshop came with him, leading Cote to sign up. Photojournalism has helped Cote and Taylor become closer friends.
“As I've gotten older, the photojournalism field has thinned out quite a bit.,” Cote said. “It's a tough business to make it in, so a lot of my friends who started in photojournalism at the same time I did have since left the business. So, the ones who make it get to know each other more and sort of band together.”
When asked if he had ever considered giving up, Taylor said, “Never. But it’s always been a hard path. It’s not an easy career choice.”