Artist Ruben Natal-San Miguel is a September 11 survivor. He escaped from the North Tower while working as a financial controller. Like it was for millions of New Yorkers, that day was a turning point for Miguel, who began photographing portraits afterwards, as if to soothe a collective memory or freeze moments in time that once were beautiful.
Fast-forward 20 years, and Ruben is now a prolific photographer — and still based in New York City. “Some things you just can’t look away from,” he said about the city. “New York is like that. It’s a city of layers.” Indeed, the metropolis is chock full of layers — visual, auditory and physical — and they continuously renew. For Ruben, this richness made him curious about people. He began to seek them out, eventually photographing them as part of a larger attempt to understand his own place in the world. The subjects of his fascination are individuals immersed in the environments that have shaped their identities; the resultant photographs are as much about those individuals as they are about the context each finds themselves within.