As a New Yorker and someone whose family was directly impacted by the tragedy of September 11th, 2001, I've always had a hard time with the media's glorification of trauma. Every year on the anniversary of September 11th, the news channels are flooded with video footage. While I do think it is important to educate those who are not familiar with what happened that day, I also know that I personally can't stand to watch those video clips. They obviously make me upset, but for some reason I also become enraged. It's the same anger I feel when I walk along Church Street and am forcefully given a brochure for the 9/11 Museum. Yes, I have been there and yes, it is beautifully done, but I probably don't want to go back there until it becomes time for me to educate my own children about what happened that day. It is the same anger I felt when I was standing before the 9/11 Memorial, placing a rose on my Uncle's name when my face was met with a microphone, a woman, and a camera. The woman questioned abruptly “OMG, did you lose someone?”. As I am usually kind and polite, I quickly responded with a “please get the fuck away from me”, and a smile. She did, of course, but I was left to reflect for a moment about why I was so angry. Yes, it's probably because of this tragedy that resulted in the crumbling of those towers and the lives that were connected to them, including my uncle's and my family's. But it was also an anger stemming from the... selfies. The fucking selfies!
I was clutching this rose. I was upset and I was angry. I was praying and reflecting. And there the tourists were, smiling. Laughing. With their selfie sticks and their thought-out “candid” artistically beautiful moments that their friends photographed on their iPhones and cameras so that they could later post them on Instagram and all of their friends at home would then know that they were here in New York City! I was pissed. I thought about the memorials that I have visited. I thought, “Hey, maybe I'm just being a bitter New Yorker. Maybe, if this wasn't my city, I'd be doing the same.” But I traced through those memories and in none of them was I cheesin' hard, taking a selfie. If anything, I have photographed the memorial, or maybe a stranger looking upon the memorial, but not a genuine cheerful “I'M ALIVE AND ALL OF THESE PEOPLE ARE DEAD LOLOL” kind of selfie. That's how I viewed the ones that were taking place around me at least. I tried to let it go and see it from their point of view. That no one they knew was directly affected by this tragedy. That they didn't comprehend the lives that were lost that day. Or maybe this is how they were appreciating the art. I mean, it is a well done memorial! However, as much as I tried, I couldn't convince myself that this was okay.
Tonight, as I was scrolling on Facebook, I came across an article published on Metro.co.uk, written by Richard Hartley-Parkinson entitled “Powerful images that show why Holocaust Memorial selfies are so disrespectful”, I was in shock. The article is about the view of Israeli satirist and author Shahak Shapira. He's used photos taken at the Holocaust Museum in Berlin that have been posted on social media and photoshopped the subjects into real photographs from the Holocaust. The Holocaust Museum in Berlin seems to call upon the artistic selfie-takers, and like me, Shahak seemingly agrees that it's fucked up! While in those photographs, the subjects seem to get a bit more creative with their surroundings, I think the idea of posing in a sacred, honorable place just should not be the norm. And it's not an argument about what should and shouldn't be “the norm” but more so about what the hell is this world doing and why are selfies so goddamn important? Being that I am a model, I can appreciate a good selfie from time-to-time, or all the time frankly if you check my social media! But trust me, if selfie-promotion wasn't a part of my job, it would be a lot less frequent. Let me stop there though, because even a “selfie” (even the repetition of this word is making me nauseous) or one or two or three is okay! It just is not okay when it's done in a shit way... like at a memorial honoring lots of people who have died. It's just not the right place.
Shahak's work inspired me to search the internet. I looked on Instagram for selfies that were taken at the 9/11 Memorial. There was a bunch to choose from. For some reason the smirks didn't bother me as much as the full on grins. The fashion-blogger attempts pissed me off the most though. People literally go all fashion editorial at the 9/11 Memorial, you have to check this shit out. I decided to grab a couple of my favorites, and by favorites I mean the ones that made me the most enraged. I paired them with photographs actually taken on September 11th. The result was awful. The following photos are Photoshopped by me and will probably piss you off as well. If you're someone who is in one of these photographs, I'm sorry you're a prime example of a tourist who deserves a selfie-stick up the ass. If you want your photo taken off my blog, you can contact me at OliviaMarieWilson@gmail.com.