Members of the Cox family mourn the loss of Terrance “Bird” Cox. Bird, 25, who had no police record, was shot and killed near a Chinese takeout down the street from his house in North Philadelphia. Police described the killing as an “execution-style” ambush.

“You know it’s us today, but tomorrow it could be any of y’all,” Terrance “Bird” Cox’s father, Keith Lyons, told 1,000 people at the vigil for his son. Cox, 25, was shot and killed down the street from his house in North Philadelphia. “He was a good kid, never had any problems with him,” his father said. During the vigil, weeping friends and family placed teddy bears and candles next to the China King takeout near where he was killed.

The vigil for Terrance Cox is one the city of Philadelphia has seen replicated dozens of times for slain residents throughout 2014. Beginning in May, photographer Kevin Cook began documenting one of Philadelphia’s largest social concerns: gun violence. In 2014, the city is on pace for an annual homicide rate of 14.8 per 100,000. Second is Chicago, which is on pace for an annual rate of 12.6 homicides per 100,000 residents, according to year-end data by the Philadelphia Police Department. Cook’s photos examine what happens to the victims, families, friends and those who managed to survive being shot, carrying with them deep emotional and physical scars. Cook visited crime scenes and vigils where he found himself using his iPhone as much as his DSLRs. Using Instagram, his camera phone became a stealth tool that he was able to wield to document human tragedy and the underbelly of human behavior — but also, specifically, a segment of the city overwhelmed by violence and ensuing grief.

“Ultimately, I am hoping these images will enlighten the public, and more importantly the youth of Philadelphia,” Kevin says of his photos. “Although I met many grieving families, I was often thanked for giving their loved ones a voice.”

All photos by Kevin Cook.


The cemetery plot for Tyrek Connor after his funeral in Philadelphia in June 2014. Connor, 25, who had no police record, was shot to death in the back seat of his car with his pants down. “When is enough enough?” asked the Rev. Walter Barnes. “How many families have to go through this?” Tyrek left behind his 3-year-old daughter Imani.

“There are good days and bad days,” said Kammie, who lost her son Larry 10 years ago. Larry was shot by three different gunmen several days after his mother’s birthday.

Kapus’s father died of AIDS when he was 12. Six months later, his family’s house burned down. Kapus, a life-long North Philadelphian, is now 37. “Some days I thought the only way out was homicide or suicide. But I’m alive and well.” He was shot several times during an altercation but survived.

Police investigate the scene of a fatal shooting in Southwest Philadelphia on June 10, 2014.

Philadelphia’s 22nd Police District, which includes areas of North Philadelphia, is the city’s most dangerous. The crime and homicide rates are the highest in the city. Nearly one in four Philadelphians live below the federal poverty line.

Philadelphia’s 22nd district.

A mural was painted in honor of Malik, also known as “BulletHead,” who was shot and killed near his home at 11th and York streets in Philadelphia’s 22nd Police District in August 2014.

Terry of North Philly was shot five times over a drug deal gone bad. He had open-heart surgery and fully recovered. He now does community outreach in Philadelphia’s most violent neighborhoods.

Nate works out at a gym in his house in Philadelphia. The North Philadelphia native lost his left leg after a gunfight over a drug deal gone bad. After his shooting, he fell into a deep depression. He works out several times a day as a way to battle his illness. “It gives me a natural high,” he said about working out.

A man held onto his daughter following a shooting in Philadelphia, June 10, 2014. A 26-year-old man was pronounced dead at the scene by medics after he was shot on North 45th Street near Parrish Street in the West Powelton section of West Philadelphia. (Kevin Cook)

Families and friends of “Buruco” wear a T-shirt in his remembrance after an anti-violence rally in Philadelphia.

A drumline practices along West Susquehanna Avenue on July 10, 2014. The Philadelphia School District has suffered major budget cuts, including the music and arts departments. Budget cuts have left the school district $748 million short of needed funds. As of 2013, one of four schools did not have a full-time music teacher.

The HEAVY Basketball League in North Philadelphia was created to keep children and teens busy and off the streets during the summer. The league is in the city’s 22nd district. In some parts of the district, more than 50 percent of residents live in poverty.

A man was shot about 11 p.m. near Toronto Street in North Philadelphia on June 1, 2014.

Families and friends of Troy K. Smith Jr., 23, of East Mount Airy, Philadelphia, mourn at the spot where was killed in Southwest Philadelphia. “I never thought anything like this [could happen] before,” said his mother, Renee Whitmore. Smith was her first-born child and only son.

Delinquent properties are scattered throughout Philadelphia.