A Temple couple embraced as they were photographed in their driveway, each holding a gun.
The portrait of Kenneth and Tylissa Frazier by Killeen photojournalist Christian K. Lee was among several featured in a photo essay published Sunday in The Washington Post Magazine.
The article — titled “Armed Doesn’t Mean Dangerous” — included portraits of black gun owners from Temple, Killeen, Copperas Cove and Fort Hood. The photos and text by Lee, a 30-year-old first lieutenant in the U.S. Army at Fort Hood, are intended to show positive images of black gun owners, he said.
Gun ownership “is not a black or white issue,” Lee said, “it’s an American right.”
“I’m not a politician but I do have pride in the freedoms we have,” Lee told the Telegram.
Lee’s work — which has appeared in Rolling Stone, The Washington Post, Los Angeles Times and the Las Vegas Review-Journal, among other publications — is the results of “good old journalism.”
Lee said he met black gun owners through firing ranges, local groups and other community connections “to create a positive archive of images of African-Americans.”
The Fraziers of Temple were among the Bell County gun owners whose portraits were published in the magazine.
“We get pulled over a lot, so having a license will show that we are law-abiding citizens,” Tylissa Frazier, 38, was quoted in the magazine.
Lee, who grew up in Chicago, wrote that he often saw negative portrayals of African-American men with guns.
“Black men there and in the rest of the country were associated with gangs and criminality, and guns were always deemed dangerous in their hands,” Lee wrote in the magazine. “But at home, I saw a positive, responsible side of firearms ownership: My father was an Army veteran and a police officer. I became a gun owner myself — one of the 24 percent of African-Americans who report owning guns, according to Pew Research Center. They, like me, are comfortable exercising their Second Amendment rights.”
Asia Wagg, a 35-year-old resident of Fort Hood, was photographed with a gun on her shoulder.
The single mother told Lee her priority is “protect and defend my family.”
Devin Meadows, a Copperas Cove resident, was photographed sitting on a lawn with a gun in his right hand.
“We as African-Americans have been deprived of so many rights, so why not take advantage of the ones we have?” Meadows was quoted in the magazine.
Work as photojournalist
After joining the Army in 2019, Lee said he maintained his desire to photograph people and places.
“I fell in love with photography while in college” at Southern Illinois University, Lee said. “But I can’t take photos of just college events. … The camera is more important than taking pretty photos.”
While working on his college newspaper, he documented unrest in nearby Ferguson, Mo., after a police officer shot a young black man in 2014.
“I wanted to use the camera as tool to understand people,” he said.
Lee now uses his camera to document what he sees in Killeen and the surrounding area. His website includes several of his projects, including photographs that document canceled prom plans during the coronavirus pandemic.
Living in Killeen hasn’t stopped Lee from publishing his work in U.S. newspapers and magazines. “There are national stories, even in Killeen,” Lee said. “I’m always curious about telling stories in my own backyard.”
Lee’s work attracted more attention with The Post Magazine article, he said.
“People have been calling me, reaching out to me and showing support,” Lee said, adding that a media outlet in France plans to publish his photos.
A photo exhibit of his work is planned in Virginia, but Lee hopes that he will be able to someday show his work locally.
“I want people to be able to see the photos I take in a local exhibit, so that way it’s right here in Bell County” he said.
The Army officer said he will continue to document gun ownership this summer and hopes to collect his photographs in a book.
Lee said his project’s intention was to present a more positive view of black people and guns, “to promote a more balanced archive of images of African-Americans with firearms by showing responsible gun owners — those who use these weapons for sport, hobby and protection. I hope these photos bring that important point into focus.”
Journalism is still a side job for Lee.
“I love the Army, so for now, this is like a side job for me,” Lee said. “Journalism is a way of life … but it’s something I do on my own time.”
FOR MORE INFORMATION
To see more photographs of Christian K. Lee, visit christianklee.com.