What really surprised me was when I got up above, I was able to see these beautiful benches that Suzanne had included for people to sit down and take moments to reflect. All of those elements came together as a picture as I physically got up in the air and I began to see the scene for the first time in my eyes.
What was so powerful about what Suzanne had created, and what I hope to convey in this photograph, is the scale and the magnitude of the loss. But when you begin to walk through this exhibit and realize that each flag represents a family member, it's powerful. To see a loved one reflect on that person they lost on that flag is very moving. Watching it from above was as if I was watching the nation collectively grieve.
Everybody could say, "It's such a dark, devastating scene," when you really think about what it's representing. I wanted to create a photograph that had those elements of that narrative storywise, but also was a photograph about hope and coming together. That's one of the beautiful things that the installation naturally does. Thousands of people come out and connect in a way and can reflect on our collective loss.
What kind of emotions were you intending to evoke with this photo?
There's a power in beauty. When I show you something beautiful, it allows me access into your soul for a second. If I show you something dark and depressing, you're going to turn the page, swipe up or whatever you're going to do. You're not going to be present enough to allow me that moment of entry into your emotional center of your heart. When I can create something that's beautiful and the criticism is almost a sense of awe when people look at it, they will take more time to go into it.
You think about all religions and there's always this connection between light and darkness, living and death. I wanted to create this in a way where I feel like there's a new day—the sun coming up over on the left side of the photograph and then being able to watch and see the grand unfolding of these flags as your eye moves across it. You get caught up in the visuals and the power of the light and the graphics.