I live just a few miles outside of New York City, so when 911 happened, my world was rocked harder than most in the world. After getting my daily dose of hate mail this week about taking pictures at the 911 Memorial at Liberty State Park in Jersey City, I thought I'd write about it.
Liberty State Park has floods of professional and amateur photographers there every day taking photographs of the 911 Memorial for every reason under the sun. Some for personal use, some for selling to stock footage and news channels, or others like me who photograph people around that area. The area surrounding the memorial has an old train station, a lot of greenery, and a great view of the NYC skyline and waterfront.
The first time I ever photographed there, it was for a bride of mine who's father was a police officer that died on 911 saving the lives of many. It was so meaningful for her to take pictures there with her husband and I was happy to do it. Since then, I've taken many brides there to be photographed because I find it meaningful in a positive way, not a disrespectful one, because of my first interaction with it. There is also a reception hall at the end of the park, so this is the practice of many photographers working there.
However, after having people send me hate mail about my "offensive" photographs I began to wonder what the truth was. I was taught from the daughter of a 911 victim that those photographs are anything but offensive, but others were telling me the opposite. Am I just ignorant to the possibility of offending others by photographing at a Memorial that thousands of people photograph every week? Should photographers care if their photographs are offensive to those who aren't paying clients? Or are the offended being over-sensitive, and from the looks of a quick Google Image Search have a lot to be over-sensitive about (and a lot more hate emails to write)?
There are so many beautiful memorials around the world, like The Lincoln Memorial in Washington DC, that professionals and amateurs photograph every day. Is shooting there equally as offensive to some? What stance should we take when our clients want to photograph at memorials? Is it just a personal conviction that should influence our choice to photograph at these places, or a public one?