Two weeks after the Pulse Nightclub shooting, I attended a wedding of two friends, JT and Jenica, in northern Florida. We met at Pulse Nightclub ten years earlier. In the moment JT walked down the aisle towards the woman she adored, something inside of me woke up: I knew I needed to tell the story of Pulse through my experience with the community.
On my first night in Orlando, I spoke with Rae and Nay a local newly engaged couple. Nay told me a story about an interaction she had with a customer at work that asked: “Are you, family?” After responding yes, he gave her a hug. Nay had to explain to her coworker, “in the gay community, “family” is used to connect with each other, to let each other know “hey we’re the same and we’re in this together. We’ve been through similar things.”
This project has grown to include long-form interviews and intimate portraits of a selection of lives affected by the Pulse Nightclub massacre. They are survivors; members of victim’s families, local religious leaders, Orlando based civic and political figures, as well as LGBTQ+ activists.
Unexpectedly, this project and so many of the people I’ve had the honor to meet and to listen to has also provided me with an avenue for personal discovery, healing, and a sense of a future filled with hope. I hope to share some of that sense with the community to which it belongs.
Cassi Alexandra, born 1986, is an independent documentary photographer and artist who grew up in Boca Raton and High Springs, Florida. She received a BS in documentary and fine art photography from the Southeast Center for Photographic Studies while living between Daytona Beach and Orlando, Florida. Alexandra began her career as an intern at The Orlando Sentinel in 2009, and soon after became a contributor for The New York Times. Some of Alexandra’s other clients include The Wall Street Journal, The Washington Post, NPR, The Los Angeles Times, Marie Claire, ABC News, and The Seattle Times. Alexandra’s last two projects were focused on the pulse nightclub massacre in Orlando, Florida, and Standing Rock Reservation in North Dakota.
Alexandra’s work investigates both the prevalence and acceptance of violence in modern society, including the recovery process that a community undergoes in reaction to overwhelming grief. Recurring themes in Alexandra’s artwork include healing (spiritual, mental and physical), the meaning of “family”, trauma, and the silver linings from tragedy.