Remembering 9-11 Through Cracked, Digital Tea-Tones of Glass

A Cracked Memorial Metaphor for That Historically American Day. Polly Nance. Digital photograph. 10 x 8 inches.

It may be cliche and unoriginal to blogly post a series of photographs in remembrance of September 11th, but what United States citizen could forget the chills of that tragic day? It was unforgettable and incredibly unsettling… It was the first day of class for all of us, freshman Furman University students. I’ll never forget how I walked out of my first college-level English class (on Robert Frost) and turned the corner. At that moment, I noticed a group of students and professors staring intensely at a Tv screen. I then noticed that those same students and professors all had their hands placed in front of their mouths; in an emotionally gestural, but silent gasp. I stared back into the Tv screen and noticed a skyscraper on fire. At that second, I heard a loud bang and witnessed what was a plane crashing into the second tower. Horror filled the room and was accompanied by loud gasps. No one could believe their eyes. I felt helpless and fearful of the future. I was too young and naive to pay any attention to politics at that age; until that day. I remember shaking on the walk back to my dorm room. Classes were cancelled for the rest of the day. (It was probably an omen… telling me to transfer 🙂 HA! ). I was fortunate to be geographically displaced and indirectly affected by the vision I saw. But, I was uncertain whether or not more was to come. It was a day that no know-it-alls knew the answer. And I felt deep pain and empathy for those trapped and vulnerable. It did not even seem real. Yet, I felt strength in the community of new friends that shared this memory; the memory of crowding into small dorm rooms to stare in shock for hours at the television.

These photographs are metaphors for the emotional consciousness and awareness of a vulnerable nation that I felt as I stared into that Tv screen on September 11th, 2001. Normally, when I edit, I try not to make too many artificial adjustments that strip the photograph of truth. But, occasionally, I feel compelled to artily enhance and manipulate my compositions in order to evoke certain emotions. My Lightroom adjustments, therefore allowed me to edit as if in a darkroom. I love the process and technique of tea-toning film photographs. Since I am working in digital, I tried to aesthetically mimic the same tones I find nostalgically beautiful. I cannot believe it has been ten years. And sadly I feel as if the cracks and scars of this day, have grown deeper as the years have rolled on. I am proud to be an American citizen, but I had an ignorant  political and historical perspective of our world at that time. I was a child learning to age. I did not understand what would could possibly provoke one to cause such incredible devastation. I have learned over the years, however, how deeply complicated and intertwined the ties of our nation’s international involvement are. Most of our labor is outsourced… the world is a different place. I am only 28 years old, but I have seen a dramatic change and tension growing in our world since I was a child. So much anger and blame floating around. I feel as if this pane of glass, cracked but not shattered, represents the vulnerability and sting of innocent American citizens that sat together in disbelief that horrific day. Anxiety and uncertainty for the future are building within a country that has always felt secure. No one seems to know or be telling anything truthful on the news these days. It is hard to trust and figure out who to believe. But the scars have also provided strength and awareness… a chance to hopefully bounce back; but not forget. Right now, this constant bickering between republicans and democrats seems incredibly childish to me, when we all live under the same geographical roof. Let us hold hands and bind the cracks; fill them with comprehension and compassion. For we are all people. And we are all the same. It is we who allow ourselves to become divided. We control our actions and ability to let go of anger. As I tell my son, “isn’t it more fun to be happy, than to continue being mad? Being mad is no fun!” “It’s only going to cause you to get in more trouble.”

To all those who hurt and were directly affected… but not defeated ten years ago. Just damaged momentarily in spirit…

A Digitally-Tea-Toned, Cracked Division Day. Polly Nance. Digital photograph. 8 x 10 inches.

In Light of a Day When the American World Turned Upside-Down. Polly Nance. Digital photograph. 

A Standard, Targeted Flag Still. Polly Nance. Digital photograph. 8 x 10 inches.

A Delicate Ode to Those with Pain. Polly Nance. Digital photograph. 8 x 10 inches.

Cracked, Glass Veins Threaded Through an American Emblem. Polly Nance. Digital photograph. 10 x 8 inches.

A Chaotically-Blurred Remembrance of That Tragic Day. Polly Nance. Digital photograph. 10 x 8 inches.

A Cracked, But Not Shattered, Memorial. Polly Nance. Digital photograph. 8 x 10 inches.

A Black-and-Complicatedly-White Distortion of an Innocent Civilian’s American Memory. Digital photograph. 8 x 10 inches.

Digital Tones; Uncertain Reverence for America’s Future. Polly Nance. Digital photograph. 10 x 8 inches.




21 thoughts on “Remembering 9-11 Through Cracked, Digital Tea-Tones of Glass

  1. I think the entire country was changed on that day. I still remember how I found out, I was at work, and a friend called me to tell me what was happening. The whole office pretty much stopped working that day, we were all glued to the radio and TV (someone brought in a small TV so we could keep up with the reports). These are very symbolic and well-done images!

  2. I remember watching the t.v., I thought for a moment that it wasn’t real but then it was. The World changed since then. A few days ago, an episode was aired about the last phone calls the deceased. It was the saddest one I’ve ever heard. Some new they’re not going to make it. The goodbye was heartbreaking. Beautiful post. Today we pay tribute to the victims and their families. We offer a prayer of silence.

  3. Wonderful post and wonderful images. I never before imagined what it would be like to have an adulthood so shaped by September 11. You have reminded me that we must do all we can to make the world better for both ourselves and our children.

  4. Hi Polly-

    Very thought provoking photos and post. I am twenty years older but like you very changed by the events of 9-11-01. I believe America is the land of the free and home of the brave. We have to keep standing shoulder to shoulder working for a common greater good. Your post said it well. Thanks for visiting my blog.

  5. I remember the day when I watched the events unfold on tv. I was 21 and had never been to the States, yet I’ve never felt closer. I don’t think the years will ever bury the horror and all those questions, but I pray that God will help all those who are directly affected to get through this in His own ways.

  6. A well thought out series of metaphors.
    A small bone to pick if I may. The manipulation of images has always been a part of the photographic process. Burning, dodging, cropping and so on. You are right..what we do in Lightroom is no different than what the old masters did in the dark room.
    If you are a documentarian, even then you may need to manipulate the image to bring attention to something that was too dark or blown out in the original camera shot…

  7. Some nice treatments Polly (from a technical point of view) and on a subject which none of us will ever forget. When I watched the programmes in the UK to commemorate that terrible day, it gave me the same dreaded feeling that I get when I watch old footage of the Holocaust and the two World Wars. And like those two latter events 9/11 is something we should never ever forget!
    Without getting into any racist discussions, there are already some societies suggesting that the Holocaust didn’t actually happen! From their lips to G-d’s ears.


    • Thank you so much… I appreciate the feedback! I’ve gotten a few emails telling me to stay away from Photoshop. But, these are real photographs of a broken window that, luckily for me, was located in front of a flagpole. Besides that, my lightroom treatments could be easily done in a darkroom. Thank you for seeing the beauty and thought in these :). Hope you will come back again!!!

  8. Dear Polly, I remember that day too. I was shocked in front of the television screen… I think you did a wonderful and thoughtful images for the memory of the day. Sorry I can visit now your blog, I can’t catch them on time. Thank you, with my love, nia

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