From 2011 to 2014, photographer Shelley Calton took photos of Texas women, from all walks of life, who carry a gun for protection in an effort to capture their individual motivations and stories. In September, the photos will be published as a hardcover book titled “Concealed: She’s Got a Gun.”
The book depicts the private and rarely seen lives of Lone Star women from various walks of life who arm themselves for a bevy of reasons.
The subject matter for the project was something close to Calton’s upbringing.
“Growing up in Houston was synonymous with an induction into Texas gun culture. My father kept a pistol in his nightstand for protection. He owned shotguns for hunting wild game and he taught my two sisters and me to shoot at an early age,” Calton said. “This was a part of growing up in my house, it’s something that I have in common with many of the women that I photographed for ‘Concealed.'”
Calton didn’t merely observe her subjects from the outside, but immersed herself in gun culture.
“As I began to photograph these women, I sought to more deeply understand their collective experiences as concealed carriers,” she said. “So, like the women in these portraits, I too was training, tested, and fingerprinted, eventually becoming a licensed gun carrier.”
Each artfully composed shot says something about the subject and about the way they carry and why. A professionally dressed woman with a nice bag standing in a furniture-free living room is revealed to be a real estate agent and a mom who has been carrying for 10 years, beginning when she was a college student stashing her Glock 9mm in her purse or car for protecting while traveling between Houston and Ft. Worth.
Another subject, Jeniffer, is depicted in her kitchen with her son hugging her leg and a Walther at her side. She’s another mom who travels with her three children. “Women are easy targets, and I don’t want to find myself in this position. I want to be able to protect my family and myself.”
Mary Lou lives on an 800-plus-acre ranch in South Central Texas. “I’m often by myself, ” she said. “I’ve had several incidents on my property that have led me to carry my .38 Colt with me at all times. I’ve had encounters on the ranch with mountain lions, feral hogs, and wild dogs. Vagrants often cross our property and there was a manhunt for a serial killer dubbed the ‘Railroad Killer’ in our area.”