I was once engaged to a guy with a gun collection. He was infatuated with anything mechanical – from engines and motorcycles to cameras, clocks and, to my dismay, guns. Growing up on a farm, he handled hunting rifles at an early age, which jumpstarted a fascination with firearms that grew into his early 50s, a hobby he didn’t openly share, locking his shotguns and semi-automatics behind heavy safe doors, hidden from the public eye. This picture, while perhaps “normal” to some, was nothing to which I had ever been exposed.

I have always been vehemently anti-gun – anti-anything closely representing violence, hatred, anger. When I first learned of my boyfriend’s affair with weaponry, I was startled and outspoken, worried about the obvious relationship conflict and a possible future together, questioning how we would navigate our differences, especially if we had children. We came from opposite worlds and lived on different poles, but challenged each other’s beliefs in a way that made me more expansive and accepting. Suddenly, though, I found myself sleeping with a pistol not far from my pillow and signing for UPS boxes of bullets ordered online. While there was respect to my unease, there was also an occasional quail kill in the backyard and a Fourth of July blast. There was his friend who owned a cannon, along with an arsenal of black-market machine guns, but it was the night that saw wine-drinking guests firing shots into the darkness that was most disturbing to me.

Shooting this project allowed me the chance to take a closer look at the objects I opposed and to reexamine my resistance, opening up to the idea of hunting, of protection, of a hobby. I admit, I discovered beautiful, sleek designs and developed an appreciation for the lines, the inventive technology and the craft and evolution of the gun as a piece of machinery. They are incredible inventions. But still, they are guns. They kill. And I remained uncomfortable.

In a private shooting club in Florida, I was welcomed unquestioningly to experiment with “destroying” the images I had made. There was no background check, no ID verification, I was handed a Glock 65. I had never shot a real gun before. After stapling the first image to the target, I stood, staring blankly at my reflection, a deadly weapon in my shaking hands, an Ak47 firing rapidly in my left ear from the teenage hands next to me. It was a moment I will never forget – the intensity so heavy, the incongruity at what part of me do I aim? I was shooting myself. An idea. A principle. A relationship. The 25 rounds were over in an instant.

This is a personal story of conflict and differences, love and acceptance, secrets and shame — a full-circle struggle with values, standing in integrity and holding strong to beliefs. As the gun debate in America explodes in the wake of the Sandy Hook tragedy, and now, some years later with the sickening amount of killing sprees in the US, I am personally triggered and eager to offer my two cents with this project I had thought unfinished and buried with the end of my relationship.

Let me be clear: I remain opposed to guns. They are bonafide weapons, designed for danger — to hurt, maim and kill. Point blank.