Originally posted here last Holiday season: During these holidays, September 11, 2001 may seem far away, while for others, it’s still fresh in their minds. In the months after September 11th, I received a number of letters and e-mails from photographers expressing their views about the tragedy. Below is an e-mail from one of them along with my response. Even though the letter is many years old, I’m re-posting it in the hope that those of you who might be feeling depressed about the state of the world and the economy might have something to think about on how you can make a difference.
I love photography and have traveled the world taking pictures as a photo buff in the past, 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 an new one. Sorry, but maybe others are in the same mindset. Thanks for listening, Patricia
Thanks for sharing your views. I’m sure that many photographers share your concerns about their personal safety and we have experienced a sense of loss since September 11th but I am optimistic about the future and here’s why: I was only a baby on December 7, 1941 but I am sure that tragedy aroused similar feelings in many people, including photographers, but our nation struggled on from that “date which will live forever in infamy” to orbit the earth, discover a cure for polio—a crippling scourge that was a plague 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 school or office place murders that never seem far out of the headlines even at this time of year.
Instead of moving into a cave, like our early ancestors did, think about this: What did early humans do when there was no Habitat for Humanity to help them own their own home? These people decorated the walls of their caves with art by creating images of their world and the tools at hand. The tools that are 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.”
Why not volunteer your camera at a homeless or battered woman’s shelter to make pictures of their kids and family. Go to retirement homes and make portraits of senior citizens that they can share with their family and friends. Document farmers at work harvesting wheat, fireman washing their trucks, or the letter carrier or UPS delivery person bringing packages to their customers. Build a website, blog, or use the countless photo sharing sites out there to celebrate the goodness found in the world and not the evil, not the terror.
The most precious gift anybody can give is photographs of the people they love. Photograph your kids; make portraits of your mom, dad, or grandparents while they are still here so these images can be shared with future generations. Have your own portrait made and framed and give it to a loved one; they will cherish it believe me. And never, never 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,