On a Saturday afternoon in July I visited the 9/11 Memorial in downtown New York. I had followed the design and construction process, and I was excited to experience it in person. From the photos I had seen, I thought it was beautiful, moving, and appropriate. I was pretty disappointed when I arrived. All the photos I had seen were from a high vantage point, showing the pools representing the footprints of the original towers in context. From the ground, I couldn’t see one pool from the other, and the experience seemed as flat as the plaza.
But the memorial was teeming with people, one of my favorite subjects to photograph. One of my first shots was of a woman’s hands resting on the names that surround the perimeters of the pools. I liked it so much that I let it set the theme for the rest of my afternoon. I noticed beautiful gestures in the great diversity of people’s hands as they leaned on the ledge to get a better view into the pools, absentmindedly traced the letters of someone’s name, or perhaps remembered a lost loved one. So through my photography I found the meaning I was looking for not in the memorial’s architecture but in the visitors it was meant to speak to.