It was August 2011 & the last day of our holiday in America. My wife & I had just spent a whirlwind 10 days in NYC, with a stop over in Santa Monica, before flying home to Melbourne in the morning. Although there are many great memories from the big apple, the photo above is one that keeps returning to my mind.
We spent this last day with a leisurely walk down the Santa Monica pier, a place my wife had been many years before, and with the self imposed (idiotic) pressure of getting some 'great' NYC shots gone I was finally relaxed. Happily listening to her relive stories of dodgy backpackers accommodation, car rental chaos and watching her come alive with each telling. In hindsight if we had the chance again I would leave the camera at the hotel more often than not.
While we casually cruised the pier weaving to and fro amongst the bevy of tourists, stopping and admiring the many entertainers every few meters, it wasn't the flag on the beach that first caught my attention. There were other things, repeating shapes, which became clearer as I walked closer to the edge. Crosses. Lots of them. It was obvious that this was a memorial of some kind & immediately assumed it was related those lost in war. Then I noticed this kid.
He was dashing around, kicking up the sand behind him like a dune buggy, turning in circles. Round and around the flag pole then zooming off to underneath the pier then back again to the flag pole. As i gazed upon this scene I couldn't help but notice the wonderful contrast of a child's carefree playfulness surrounded by a deeply serious commemorative site. The innocence of this child had lifted my heart & I brought the camera to my eye intending to capture this memory.
Suddenly he stopped and stood to attention. He stood there motionless for what would have been only a couple of seconds. The moment had me frozen. I almost didn't press the shutter. Although I think he may have just been comparing his shadow with that of the flag pole - that's the thing. Was he? Or did he if only briefly recognise the significance of where he was? Perhaps his parents were under the pier in the shade calling out to him to 'be respectful'.
I'll never know. But I do know that this image will stay with me for the rest of my life.