Growing up, I didn’t know people were afraid of guns,” says Eva Noble ’18. “It just wasn’t a conversation we had.”
Noble’s family once owned the only motel in Challis, Idaho with corrals—a critical amenity for patrons traveling through the town sandwiched between the Salmon River and national forestland. Hunters, fishermen, and rodeo competitors were frequent guests.
In high school, it was not uncommon to see gun racks with hunting rifles on trucks in the school parking lot or for her classmates to carry knives used for baling hay before class. Guns were an everyday part of life.
As a senior graphic design major at Utah State, Noble took a photography class where the final project was to produce a body of work around the theme of “American Identity.” Noble pitched five ideas to her professor, but the last one—a series of portraits of gun owners—was an idea she felt Noble should explore with her own lens.
Classmates helped her locate subjects. Then a mass shooting happened at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida where three staff members and 14 students were killed by a former classmate. Noble thought of pivoting to another topic; it felt too soon to do the project.
“I wanted to be sensitive,” she says. But Noble also knew that art can be a way to talk about difficult subject matter. “And we need to talk about [guns.]”
With her exhibition “Keep and Bear Arms,” Noble wanted to show the diversity of gun owners in the United States—how the majority are decent, law-abiding people from across educational and economic spectrums. She wanted to show that people have a lot more in common than differences.
“I did this project because it wasn’t what you would expect,” she says. “I learned that not everything is so polarized—and we need to stop that. We all fear the same things.”
Selected images from Noble’s show “Keep and Bear Arms.”