Visualizing the lives lost due to gun violence

There are frequent demonstrations and vigils in D.C. after gun tragedies, but some of the most powerful activism comes from showing the sheer volume of the individual lives lost. There have been three projects in recent years that visualize the losses due to gun violence in different ways: Soul Boxes, the Gun Violence Memorial, and Shoes at the Capitol

Soul Boxes

This past weekend, a project covered the width of the Mall in homage to lives lost to gun violence.

©Victoria Pickering

The display consisted of many thousands of paper origami-folded boxes, each one made and decorated by a volunteer or someone impacted by gun violence. Almost 200,000 soul boxes have been made to date, representing the number of lives lost or people injured due to gun violence over the past three years.

©Victoria Pickering

Each individual block is a heart-breaking tribute.

©Victoria Pickering

The project also has boxes displaying lives lost to mass shootings and to suicide. Those boxes are displayed in plastic bags as a way to protect them but still be visible.

©Victoria Pickering
©Victoria Pickering

The Soul Box Project will continue to add boxes to the collection, and will be available for display in smaller segments in localities throughout the U.S.

The Gun Violence Memorial

Last April, 40,000 silk flowers were laid out on the Mall, one for each life lost to gun violence in a single year. The project was sponsored by the Giffords foundation, led by former Representative Gabby Giffords. Giffords was severely wounded during an event with constituents in 2011, a tragedy where a single shooter killed 6 people and injured 19.

©Victoria Pickering

Shoes at the Capitol

In 2018, the Shoes at the Capitol project laid out 7,000 pairs of shoes to represent the number of children killed by gun violence between the time of Sandy Hook in 2012 and the display in 2018. The project was sponsored by international advocacy group Avaaz, and took place one month after the school shootings at Parkland.

©Victoria Pickering
Barbara Parker, the mother of Alison Parker, lay shoes in her memory. Alison Parker and a co-worker were shot and killed while broadcasting an interview live on-air for WDBJ, a CBS affiliate in Roanoke. ©Victoria Pickering

In addition to these gun violence memorials, there have been several other visual projects in D.C. for tragedies from other causes, such as:

COVID deaths: In America Remember

AIDS deaths, and genocide: displays on the Mall

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