In my March 2003 Web Profiles column in Shutterbug, I wrote about Brian Dorsey’s photography: “The photograph of his baby called “Miles Above the World Trade Center” was made on September 4, 2001 and projects an image of hope and optimism that goes far beyond the kind of images we have been bombarded with since September 11th.”
Each Christmas I’ve published a letter from a reader—and my response to her— who was concerned about how the events of 9/11 would have on her personal photography and have decided to publish it today in the hope of drawing some hope and maybe inspiration for you and myself too.
I love photography and have traveled the world taking pictures but since 9-11, I just feel there is no future in taking pictures anymore. I cannot travel the world as an American without concern for my safety and I personally feel in the not-so-far future we will all be living in caves once again with all systems gone, therefore, once my camera became inoperable, I just did not bother to have it repaired or to purchase a new one. Sorry, but maybe others are in the same mindset. Thanks for listening, Patricia
Thanks for sharing your views. We’ve all experienced a sense of loss since September 11th but I’m optimistic about the future and here’s why: I was only a few months old on December 7, 1941 but I’m sure that tragedy aroused similar feelings in many people, including photographers but our nation struggled on from that day to orbit the earth, discover a cure for polio—a crippling scourge when I was young—land on the moon and aim for the stars. Oh sure, there are ongoing tragedies, including humankind’s seeming intolerance of one another’s political and religious beliefs, and the latest shooting that never seem far out of the headlines.
Instead, think about this: What did early humans do when they lived in caves? These people decorated the walls of their caves with art using the tools at hand to create images of their world. The tools on hand for us are silver and silicone and we can use them to change the world one person at a time or as I like to say “one pixel at a time.”
Don’t despair. Instead, volunteer your camera at a homeless or battered woman’s shelter to make pictures of their kids. Go to retirement homes and make portraits of senior citizens that they can share with their family and friends. Document farmers at work harvesting crops, fireman washing their trucks, or maybe just a delivery person bringing packages to their customers. Build a website, blog or use the countless photo sharing sites out there to celebrate the goodness in the world and not the evil, not the terror.
The most precious gift anybody can give is photographs of people they love. Photograph your kids; make portraits of your mom, dad, or grandparents while they are still with us so these images can be shared with future generations. Have your own portrait made and give it to a loved one; they will cherish it—believe me. And never, ever forget that photography is a universal language and use it to make friends for all humankind.
Yes, Patricia, there is life after September 11th. There are fifty states of people bursting with life and all of them hoping for a better future for their kids and grandchildren. Photograph them to celebrate all that is good about the world.
Hopeful for the future,