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Liberated Freed From the Flagpole

The Metamorphosis of the Flag Since 9/11

by Robert Carley



Book Details

Language : English
Publication Date : 8/18/2021

Format : Softcover
Dimensions : 8.5x8.5
Page Count : 100
ISBN : 9781664233874
Format : E-Book
Dimensions : N/A
Page Count : 100
ISBN : 9781664233881

About the Book

Looking out from my office window overlooking the skyline of New York City on September the 11th 2001, I watched history unfold before my very eyes. The sight of the billowing smoke from the World Trade Towers will forever be etched in my memory. But as soon as the Ground Zero ashes had cooled off and the dark clouds of disbelief lifted, a red-hot patriotism started spreading like a wildfire across the country. Nothing could douse it. This fire touched every corner of the country from remote small-town America to the large urban centers.

Americans felt the desire to show their love, compassion and goodwill to their fellow citizens. The flag was the symbol they used to show each other that they could persevere and overcome. Putting down my artist’s pen in favor of the camera, I began in earnest a twenty-year documentary journey to capture this American spirit. I started off snapping photos in my neighborhood, my town, then all across my state, then finally branching out to all regions of the US. Traveling alone, in a rented car, I crisscrossed 45 states in my hunt to discover as many flag tributes as possible. I enjoyed every minute of it—eating at local diners, talking to friendly locals and always finding things that I never expected. I felt an urgency, knowing that a lot of the displays would have a short life span, I wanted to preserve the images for historical purposes. The few years after 9/11 especially represented a unique time in American history.

Americans over the past twenty years have been breaking tradition and respectfully taking liberties with “Old Glory.” The flag is no longer only a piece of fabric attached to a flagpole; it has been freed and untethered. The major reason, after 9/11, they flew off the shelves and sold out. American ingenuity came to the fore. Citizens have transformed the flag to express their patriotic zeal, using personal materials or objects they had on hand. With great imagination and creativity, the flag continues to evolve. The wide range of unconventional materials used are surprising and sometimes amusing; flag painted cars, trees, murals, houses, and even flag tattooed people. Although, you would not know it after listening to the mainstream media, the majority of Americans still love “Old Glory.”

After all these years, I am still finding wonderful flag images and writing the stories behind them. To take a great photo, I remember to keep my focus on God, and then see what develops! Every time I start off on a road trip, I take my camera and Bible and start the morning with a short prayer; “God please protect me on the road and please help me to find beautiful flags today.” More often than not, I am surprised that God actually answered my prayers, and helped me be at the right place and at the right time. To this day, I am excited to see what God has in store for me. I truly feel like that I have been led. Some of my amazing “Godincidences” or “God winks,” are recounted in the following pages.

About the Author

Robert Carley was born in New Orleans,
Louisiana. His mother was the daughter of a French ambassador and his father was president of a large advertising agency based in New Orleans. His great uncle, Maxime Leroy, was a great historian and an elite member of the Académie Française.
He graduated from the University of Pennsylvania, where he received a BA, double majoring in political science and fine arts. Over the past 20 years, Carley has had the opportunity, mostly due to layoffs — first as a result of 9/11 and again thanks to the financial crisis of 2009 — to take multiple flag photo, cross-country road trips. To help support his photography financially, he became a SAG background actor working on many hit TV shows, such as “Blue Bloods,” “Law and Order,” “Person of Interest” and “Elementary.” He has also worked on movies and was featured in several, including the Academy Award-winning movie Still Alice.
Carley’s photographs have been featured on the websites of the BBC, Microsoft News, National Journal, Baltimore Sun, The Washington Times, Hartford Courant, San Francisco Chronicle, New York Magazine and Connecticut Magazine. He has had solo shows of his flag photos at the Star-Spangled Banner Flag House Museum in Baltimore, the Museum of Connecticut History in Hartford, the Connecticut State Capitol, and for the 20th anniversary of 9/11 at the Mattatuck Museum in Waterbury, Connecticut. The 9/11 Memorial & Museum selected 165 of his photographs for their permanent collection.
Carley was so inspired by taking photos of other people’s flag tributes that he started making his own. These flags were fashioned out of coffee-cup lids, creamer containers, water bottles, automobile tires, shuttle cocks, tape cassettes, VHS tapes and egg cartons. His paper clip flag (above) was chosen for an exhibit by well-known sculptor James Grashow. Many of these creations were featured on news broadcasts in New York City, Hartford, Connecticut, and in Fairfield County, Connecticut.
Carley’s other artistic pursuits include caricature and abstract art. A caricature of George H.W. Bush was exhibited in a show titled “To the President: Folk Portraits by the People” at the Smithsonian’s National Portrait Gallery in 1994. One of his abstract drawings was awarded Best in Show at the Greenwich Art Society by a curator from the Metropolitan Museum of Art.