I have been debating with myself, over the last few weeks if I would write this post. The Global Lens – my new travel photography blog – was just started last month. So why would I want to write a photo essay, about a memorial service for 4 people killed in the Jewish Museum in Brussels? Should a travel photography blog show or discuss anything that isn’t about beautiful, culturally unique locations at sunset? I don’t know what the generic answer is, but I believe for my blog, my images and words need to be from my perspective and unique to me.
A little of my background: I moved to Brussels at the beginning of last year as an expat American, after commuting from New York for 18 months. I was becoming ingrained in the culture of Brussels and other parts of Europe. I didn’t make the mistake of many expats who try to replicate their American life In Europe. I looked at everything with fresh eyes, for good and bad, and through traveling and photography tried to get a feel, a historical feel of where I was.
Part of the expat experience for me has been to take my photography to a much higher level. Hopefully, that passion will continue forever. I am now being exposed to things and life that is very different to my life in the States. My challenge is to document, through my images, and words, life as I see it. I have always wanted to be a photojournalist, so I made myself one, and now through The Global Lens, I am sharing that with you.
Last year on Saturday, May 24, 2014, a lone gunman walked into the Jewish Museum in Brussels and shot and killed 4 people. Word spread fast through the community of this terrible news. Many questions were asked – how did this happen? How could this happen in such a civilized culture? How could this happen in The Sablon, one of the nicest areas in Brussels? Where was security? Is this a Belgian problem or a European problem? How will life change in the future?
For me all these types of questions were déjà vu, all over again. You see, for some twenty years, I worked in the financial markets, trading on the floor at the Chicago Mercantile Exchange, later working for the CME, and onto some of the biggest trading rooms in the International banking world. On September 11, 2001 I was in our Greenwich, CT foreign exchange trading room, where we had television monitors and communications with financial entities all over the world. One of those firms was Cantor Fitzgerald, whose offices were on 101 – 105 floors on the North Tower of the World Trade Center. 641 people died that day at Cantor. I had four friends, from other firms, who also perished.
I could discuss in detail all that happened around that time, but suffice it to say for now, all the questions, I described above, the how’s and why’s would last forever with no good answers. My perspective of life and what is important changed forever.
Fast forward to January 2015. I was In Paris a few days before the Charlie Hebdo and subsequent hostage taking and attacks at Hypercacher – Jewish supermarkets in Paris; Copenhagen later as well: Again, the same questions with no good answers.
Each of those incidents, which were very unique in their own way, always pushes the thought to the forefront – Is it safe here and do I need to be worried? The answer is complicated and above my security knowledge pay grade. We don’t know and will never know, and a good deal of our lives are out of our control. I believe the major governments are addressing these issues in some more visible ways than others.
Resilience of mankind is amazing. They cling to their need to continue on in the most normal way possible, even in the face of tragedy. That’s what happened in Brussels. The day after the Jewish Museum attacks, a makeshift memorial service was arranged in front of the museum. There were speakers, people were commiserating and pondering and candles were lit. I was soaking it in as a human being first and a photojournalist second. It was too personal to me.
Towards the end, I started to take photos in a respectful way, with my small Fuji X-E2. I was very hesitant and couldn’t approach this as I normally would if it wasn’t so personal.
Well here we are one year later. I finally looked at the images seriously and I am sharing them for the first time with you.
I am anxious to show you, in the near future, the very positive aspects of Brussels, Paris, Copenhagen, Jerusalem, Istanbul and more with a focus on the positive side, which the majority of mankind exhibits.