10 September 2011
Last updated at 17:42
From his office in Stamford, Connecticut, Robert Carley saw "billowing smoke” coming across Long Island Sound on 9/11. Shaken by the events, he embarked on a 10 year project to “hunt down” patriotic tributes that use the stars and stripes to celebrate America. Here is some of his 9/11 inspired photography, along with his story.
I’m 52 and remember Vietnam and Watergate, but 9/11 was the most important event in American history. I was really shaken by it, it was traumatic. But within a few days I saw the American spirit rise from the ashes in the form of patriotic tributes.
People started showing their faith and resistance by using the stars and stripes to express American unity. Flags sold out from shops across the country but people started using their creativity and ingenuity - they liberated the flag from the flagpole.
Houses are great metaphors or symbols: America is our home sweet home. President Lincoln said that "A house divided against itself cannot stand". After 9/11 we were united and stopped fighting. Even liberals – who once felt that flying the flag was corny – were happy to pin it to their lapel and paint it on their houses.
I thought it was important to document these tributes that were springing up across the United States and started my journey to hunt them down.
I travel with a rented car - mine is too old to drive long distances – and stay in motels, eat in diners and coffee shops meeting as many people as possible. I ask them about local tributes and go and find them. I love meeting the people who make these tributes and I share the photographs I take with them.
The journey has taken me to 43 states so far. This is an ice cream parlour in Ohio.
I travelled a 6,000 mile round trip to meet Sam, who says he is the only man in America with a flag tattooed right on his face. He was a wonderful human being who originally hails from American Samoa and is a big advocate for making 9/11 a national holiday.
This is Sam's house: it was not enough for him to have a flag on his face, he also painted his house like a flag. I was very inspired by him.
A New York City bus mechanic and his neighbour recreated the towers in their Bronx backyard. They drilled thousands of holes for the windows and used carpet material for the exterior. They started the project in July 2011 and had it finished by September 2011, in time for the 10 year anniversary. It is a beautiful sight when it is lit up at night.
This is a grocery store clerk from Norwalk, Connecticut. I wish the Twin Towers were rebuilt after the 9/11 attacks - they are now a symbol of freedom like the Statue of Liberty.
I discovered this house this summer but the owner was not home. I spoke to the neighbours who told me I was just in time because the owner was planning on painting it over. They said the reason was that Osama Bin Laden had been brought to justice, so there was closure. This was the last flag house I have photographed.
Since 9/11 I've lost my job – it’s been a very tough time. But this has also meant that I have had more time to work on my project and to exhibit my photography. There are lots of tribute shows right now to mark the ten year anniversary of 9/11 but they're concentrating on the doom and gloom, they're not looking at what happened when America pulled together. This is what I want to show.