You find [reverberations from 9/11 ] in them most unexpected places, like graffiti on a wall. Sometimes it's a faded picture; sometimes it's a newspaper tacked to a wall. Sometimes it's weird paraphernalia related to it, home constructed paraphernalia. It resonates through society and continues to resonate today.— Peter van Agtmael
The most unusual Peter van Agtmael quotes that are simple and will have a huge impact on you
Sometimes the picture is more interesting than what is going on.
Sometimes the picture is suggestive of greater things in society or the history of what might be connected to the theme in the pictures and those are worth exploring.
I kept shooting but started making drafts of the work, essentially spending a few days a month sequencing and editing, hanging things up on the board, showing them to trusted confidantes from in and outside the photo world. It started to take its shape naturally over time until I kind of ran out of ideas.
What I was doing for those assignments wasn't always directly tied to what I was doing for myself, but it gave me the space to photograph. I started getting assignments that dealt with my own interests and made some pictures in that direction.
I realized how little I knew about my own country.
I had grown up in the suburbs and, after college, I moved out of the country, so I didn't really know the place well. When I started following soldiers and their families back home, it provoked a lot of the questions about who we are as a nation, questions I realized couldn't be explored through the more limited framework of looking at the military at war and at home.
I am still covering conflict to some degree.
I was back in Iraq. I've covered quite a bit of the Israel and Palestine. But I'm not doing it with the kind of intensity I was before and I'm not seeking out the front line and the kind danger that comes with being at the edge of the war the way I used to.
I began to explore America in more general terms.
I really started this work in 2009. I got the bulk of it done as I was easing out of Disco Night.
Nothing is over until there's something more decisive than your own thoughts.
The travel ban that was imposed by the [Donald Trump] administration is a very direct reverberation of 9/11.
[Buzzing at the Sill] deals with the margins of America, a lot of parts unseen.
Well, parts that are seen and familiar to a lot of the populace, but unseen when it comes to the parameters of what mainstream news and popular culture and Hollywood reflects.
Buzzing at the Sill is from a Theodore Roethke poem called "In a Dark Time.
" I'd heard a small part of it in a play, a sort of sci-fi play about morality in a virtual reality universe. Nothing to do with the book precisely, but it was a great play.
I think a lot of the work I've done and a lot of the work I'm going to do in the future still ties to 9/11 and the fallout from it.
That kind of unease, that melancholy, is of course partly my interpretation, but partly, I think, it's something that's really there [in America] as well. It resonates with this moment and the sort of alienation from the power structure a lot of people feel, as well as a certain amount of desperation, in the hope of disrupting the power structure so they can live better lives. I think in those ways, it's intimately connected to today.
The big question that everyone is asking themselves, or what they should be asking themselves right now, is what role has the media played in not just missing a certain part of American society that wanted to vote for, say, Donald Trump, but what role has the media played in dehumanizing other people and helping create these conditions that people are so afraid of, say, Muslims and extremism?
I read the poem [In a Dark Time by Theodore Roethke] because I was intrigued and had one of those strange senses: "This poem is kind of important to me. I don't know why, but I'm going to just keep it in the back of my mind." I just kept coming back to it. As I started putting the book together and writing the stories for it, this idea of buzzing as a word kept popping up in my brain.
[The Middle East conflict ] just kind of ran its course for me.
For a long time I could justify doing it to myself, no matter how irrational it was. It was important to me and my work. And I just don't feel it in the same way any more. When it comes up and it's important to me, I'll do it, but more out of sense of duty than desire - which used to be a big part of it.
I'm a constant editor. Every few months or so I make a ton of 4x6 prints. I put them on a magnetic board and I live with them for a while to see what bubbles to the surface. A lot of this was part of Disco Night originally, and I suddenly started realizing, "If I keep working on this because I'm not done and I put all that in Disco Night, how can this be one book? Is it going to be too long and bloated and crazy?".
It was sometimes provoked by assignments, then I'd go back on my own dime if I really clicked with a place. And sometimes it was just hanging out with my family or friends.
At first Disco Night wasn't meant to be a book, although I'm always thinking about that in the back of my mind. It started off as a series of exploratory road trips that I was doing with Christian Hansen, who I dedicated the book to.
Even though most people were disconnected from [travel ban], the moment amplified a fairly massive and somewhat irrational fear that exists in the populace at large.
I was taking all prints and I brought them to the Magnum meetings, trying the old Josef Koudelka trick: Give them to photographers, who are getting bored during the talks about the economics of the agency, to look through with a pen. They'll separate them in two piles. I started to find the core pictures that people seem to relate to.