Images bombard our brains by the thousands every day – and it seems lately, it’s an all-day thing. Some take our breath away, and stay with us for years – i.e., the picture known as “the falling man” from 9/11, the stunning green-eyed Afgani refugee on the cover of Nat Geo, or the chilling shot of the naked 9-year-old girl fleeing chaos on the streets of Vietnam. Sometimes they hurt so much, we have to stop looking. Other times they become transformative life experiences and opportunities to learn and grow.
But one thing is clear: Photographers — in fact artists in general — will almost always present one of these three things to our consciousness:
a) a subtle way to soften bad news with a sense of goodness and beauty
b) a sobering, fresh perspective exposing truths we may have missed
c) a clearer sense of our anger, a reason for protest, or how much we hurt
It’s as if artists possess a magic potion that can alter our perceptions. Artists can tackle a subject, then trash and torture it until it is barely recognizable, knowing all the while that we the viewers cling to the familiar. It is an artist’s job to challenge those comfortable positions. It’s what makes great art great.
Check out the images on this page. They are all interpretations of the same architectural structures: the two World Trade Center towers—before, during, and after that dreadful day.