There was New York
A trickle of snapshots from the day the towers fell accumulates into a relentless flood of memory
Published: September 8, 2011
A Second Telling: September 11 –Here Is New York
Through Oct. 2
Southeast Museum of Photography Daytona State College
1200 W. International Speedway Blvd.,
Daytona Beach 386-506-4475
In the days immediately after Sept. 11, 2001, Michael Shulan – now creative director for the National September 11 Memorial and Museum – and four collaborators issued a call for entries for a show of photographs related to the attack on the World Trade Center. In what he calls “a democracy of photographs,” they received a trickle that turned into a river and then eventually an unprecedented flood of images. They printed and displayed these in two storefronts on Prince Street, not far from the WTC site, and made them available online for downloading and printing. Ten years after the event, the Southeast Museum of Photography’s collection of these vivid images recalls the original horror and gives the viewer some new perspective. It is a worthwhile pilgrimage on this decade anniversary.
Shulan’s collection, called Here Is New York, includes work by famous photographers as well as by thousands of random New Yorkers. Firemen, rescue workers and citizens caught in the tragedy and suffering from the aftermath all contributed to the archive. Steve Mudrick, a co-director of the project, began videotaping the scene that morning when he saw the first building struck. After the second plane hit and the eventual heart-sinking collapse, his film continues with footage of the rescue workers and others dealing with the cleanup effort. It is a riveting 30 minutes to watch, despite the way the media has subjected us to images of the event over and over again.
People in an elevator lobby, covered with ash, appear at first glance to be statues until one comprehends the deep suffering on their faces; an office worker sitting on a bench in a park littered with paper is revealed, at second glance, to be a statue. Policemen and women, ordinarily stoic at their work, have utter shock in their eyes. Other rescue workers, photographed portrait-style, display nearly flat affect – no emotion – in order to deal with the task at hand. A man in a yellow raincoat holds up a poster he has made advertising his missing wife. Each photograph is impactful in its own way; each builds upon the next, relentlessly hammering the viewer with the gravity of the event.
These images bring back a flood of memories from that time. Viewers will find themselves recalling the attack itself, and also the personal circumstances surrounding it: Where was I, what was I doing, how did this attack change our lives? Exhibits such as this inspire deep reflection and bring forth a complex series of emotions. Flaming, broken towers; dust masks on parents and children; and familiar streetscapes scattered with gray debris all arouse the original sense of unresolved outrage, yet it is tinged with a certain weariness and futility. Our culture’s pathway changed on that day, yet instead of collectively taking back our direction we seem more lost than ever. Second Telling, and exhibits like this, may give us clues to get home.
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