Thursday, June 14, 2012

Flying the Red, White and Blue

   The Star Spangled Banner represents one of the most important symbols of the United States.  Marking the Flag Day holiday this year, I had the opportunity to shoot some photos of Elwood Taylor's flag collection which was featured in The Mercury and on line. Taylor oldest flag dates back to 1818.
Elwood Taylor
    There wasn't any conformity or rules in those days when sewing a flag. The field, star and stripes were patterned in many varied designs. My favorite was the Theodore Roosevelt flag that was used when traveling to Africa after completing his term as president. The former president's name is visible onto the white fabric edging. Taylor started researching and was able to verify the flag through correspondence with various people, the National Archives in Washington, D.C. and searching on the internet. Taylor has a copy of a photograph of Roosevelt and his team with the flag that was taken in Africa. The uniqueness of the stars on the field is one of the ways that the flag was identified. Taylor says part of the enjoyment of collecting is in the search for answers on the flags that he owns.
     The stars and stripes are one of my favorite subjects to photograph. I have countless pictures, many in black and white. Even in the absence of color, the symbol stands out in a stark contrast of gray tones.
    The  photograph I admire most was taken by Associated Press photographer Joe Rosenthal. It shows the raising of the flag on Mt. Suribachi by U.S. Marines and Navy Corpsmen while fighting the Japanese at Iwo Jima during World War II.
      My most noteworthy shot was taken in 1992 when I flew in a helicopter to photograph the world's largest flag sewn by Humphrys Flag Company in Pottstown.  It weighs more than a ton and measured 255 by 505 feet, the size of three football fields. The banner used 5.5 miles of fabric and 6,000 miles of thread.
     There are many snapshots I've clicked of people holding flags at parades and military ceremonies. Others show kids learning about patriotism and the Pledge of Allegiance, hands placed over their hearts during morning flag raising ceremonies.
     It's odd when I look up at a flag pole and see a different nation's banner when I'm traveling outside of the United States. I wasn't expecting it to have an effect wanting to see the red, white and blue waving in the breeze.
    I have always flown a U.S. flag on our home. They last about one year before the stripes begin to fade and fray. I don't keep my old flags but have them honorably disposed at a flag retirement ceremony held at Memorial Park. The flags are reduced to ashes and then buried following proper protocol.
Following that custom is my way to show respect for Old Glory even when her days of flying are over.

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