It is often mentioned that “A picture is worth more than a thousand words” because an image can convey its essence more effectively than a description or words. By preserving photos, humans are able to give value to meaningful items that kept a material record of what occurred at the moment. Photos that are preserved are meant to be stored away and only taken out to be enjoyed or skimmed through sporadically in order to honor and remember what occurred in the moment and see how the memories within photographs live onto the future.
On May 23, 2014, tragedy struck the community of Isla Vista when six students: Veronika Weiss, George Chen, Weihan Wang, Christopher Michael-Martinez, Chen Hong, and Katherine Cooper who lives were taken away too soon. Despite such tragedy, the Isla Vista community was able to come together as one. The story told through the archived and published photographs of the spontaneous and planned memorials, artifacts and messages left at these memorials are able to tell a story of community, unity, and solidarity within Isla Vista despite such senseless tragedy. These photographs are able to explicitly and implicitly convey the “IV/UCSB strong” message. After the tragedy occurred in Isla Vista, many spontaneous memorials occurred throughout the community. People who knew the victims and even people who did not know them came together to set up memorials to show their solidarity. The below and above photograph is very moving as it was taken the night of and day after the tragedy occurred. These photographs are able to preserve how a community came together in solidarity and keep documentation on how the community’s actions support the message of “IV/UCSB Strong.”
The community came to mourn and show support by placing flowers, candles, posters, and objects that represented the victims. There were also six individual black posters set in front of Pardall Center for people to write their condolences for the six victims. The community left positive remarks for a peaceful afterlife for the six individuals and prayers for the IV community as they continue the healing process.
This photograph shows that the IV community created a memorial to show that the people injured in the tragedy will have a quick and healthy recovery. Sometimes the death of people may overshadow the ones who were injured and traumatized. In the case of the tragedy, the community did not forget the thirteen injured people and created a spontaneous memorial for them as well. Not only does the photograph show how the community commemorated the six victims, but also shows their support for the people who were injured in the tragedy.
The UCSB Surf team also organized a paddle-out memorial to honor the six killed and thirteen injured people. UCSB surfers and Isla Vista residents gathered in the ocean off the coast of Santa Barbara to honor the six killed and 13 injured in the shooting rampage that took place. Three-thousand people RSVP’d for this event and hundreds of surfers created a circle by holding hands. This breath-taking picture of the event symbolizes the unity and solidarity that the IV community shares as they overcame this tragedy and also documents an event in which its atmosphere of community is impossible to replicate. At the paddle-out, students chanted, signed and tossed bouquets of flowers into the ocean. This is one of the many photographs that displayed the strength and resilience of the IV community.
Words cannot do justice for way the IV community came together in solidarity and unity. Before doing my research on this tragedy, I would throw the pun “Gaucho Back” around to my friends. After looking at these photographs, I truly understand what “Gaucho back” means to the IV community. It is vital that these photographs are preserved because it allows people to see the meaning of community, unity, and solidarity in the moment and how the IV community continues these. Without these photographs, people would not truly understand “Gaucho Back” and “IV/UCSB Strong.” People are also able to experience an atmosphere evoked in these photographs that are impossible to replicate. The photographs of the spontaneous acts of kindness from the community are able to reveal that people externalize memory because of the everlasting memory created within each photograph. They evoke many emotions and allow audiences to gain a greater understanding of the events that took place and the sense of community in times of darkness. By preserving these photographs, we are also preserving a time in place that will forever be cherished in the heart of the IV community and will continue to touch lives of other.