Patriot Day: remembering 9/11 on the 20th anniversary through photography

Since 2008, and started by students, Pepperdine University in Malibu, California stages the Waves of Flags display for Patriot Day. Each flag represents one of the lives lost in the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001. The sight of nearly 3,000 flags perched on their lawn is at turns inspiring yet heart wrenching.

Nearly 3000 flags fly in honor of those who lost their lives during 9/11.

Where were you during 9/11?

As with most, I vividly remember how I found out about 9/11 and the shock I felt as it unfolded. While driving in to work, I listened intently to what was ordinarily a goofy early morning comedy show on a rock station. They weren’t very goofy this morning. It was a whirlwind of panic, confusion, shock, and more as they reported on things that they heard, some true, some rumor.

Nearly 3000 flags fly in honor of those who lost their lives during 9/11 in this surreal sort of photo using a Lensbaby Sweet 35.

When I heard that an airplane had crashed into the World Trade Center, I initially assumed it was something like a small Cessna, and that it had been an accident. But of course, as it unfolded, I realized this was not what had happened.

My friends and family in New York were gobsmacked. Panic, confusion, shock, defiance, fear. Their emotions swung wildly in the weeks that followed. Many of us also felt patriotism, anger, sadness, and/or xenophobia as well.

The attacks have left an indelible mark on our nation’s psyche. As with most Americans, I subconsciously divide our country’s timeline into before and after 9/11.

Photographing the flags

Nearly 3000 flags fly in honor of those who lost their lives during 9/11 in this surreal sort of photo using a Lensbaby Sweet 35.

I had this idea. I would wake up early, drive to Pepperdine University in Malibu, and photograph the flags in the glorious morning light.

The fog had other ideas.

One of the trees in Pepperdine’s Alumni Park, where nearly 3000 flags fly in honor of lives lost during 9/11. Patriot Day in 2021 will be the the 20th anniversary.

Still, I figured I would try to make lemonade out of lemons. I needed to be flexible. I decided to photograph using some of my more unusual lenses, including the Lensbaby Sweet 35 and my Rokinon 12mm fisheye. And given the fog, I decided that it might look better in black and white.

A particularly moody, surreal look at some of the many flags flying in remembrance of Patriot Day, Pepperdine University, Malibu, California.

The end result is a considerably moodier, more surreal sort of feel.

A fisheye view of the flags at Pepperdine University in Malibu, California.
Waves of Flags Commemoration – video from Pepperdine University in Malibu. Patriot Day in 2021 will be the 20th anniversary of the terrorist attack.

VISIT ME, VISIT ME!

MY WEBSITE:
Head on over to the Ken Lee Photography website to purchase books or look at night photography and long exposure photos.  My latest book, “Abandoned Southern California: The Slowing of Time” is available there and Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Target, Booktopia, Books A Million, IBS, and Aladin. If you enjoy the book, please leave a nice review.

SOCIAL MEDIA:
Ken Lee Photography Facebook Page (poke your head in, say hi, and “like” the page if you would, uh, like)
Instagram

PODCAST:
Behind the Shot video podcast – interview February 2020

VIDEO INTERVIEW:
Conversation about night photography and my book with Lance Keimig of National Park At Night

ARTICLES:
A Photographer Captures Haunting Nighttime Images of Abandoned Buildings, Planes, and Cars in the American Southwest – Business Insider by Erin McDowell
A Photographer Explores Southern California’s Desert Ruins – Los Angeles Magazine article by Chris Nichols

 

 

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