Last December, at a banquet for survivors at the Hilton Hawaiian Village, Garcia positioned himself near an entrance with his Canon EOS 1D Mark IV camera and a white backdrop. “There were about 15 guys that I was able to get in front of my lens,” he says.
As he clicked away, Garcia had the survivors, like Richard Laubert (above), tell their stories of the attack. “Once you got them to open up about what they experienced, they really started to show their character,” says Garcia. “I just found myself xeroxing what was in front of me. I didn’t have to pose them. I didn’t have to tell them to stand this way, look at the camera, look left, look right, look up, look down. They were experts in what they wanted to say and how they wanted to show it.”
Garcia wanted the portraits to be intimate. He zoomed in on his subjects’ faces— their stubbly chins and wrinkly skin—and found himself focusing on their eyes. “It is their eyes that saw the planes coming over. It is their eyes that saw the torpedoes flying at them. It is their eyes that saw their friends being torn apart,” says Garcia. “Every single one of them has a story to tell with their eyes.”