New York/Seven Years

The World Trade Center • 1982 (4×5 film)
© Brian Rose

In 1974 when the WTC was just being completed, Philippe Petit, a French street performer strung a cable between the Twin Towers and proceeded to tightrope walk back and forth 6 or 8 times. Thousands watched in amazement from below. Eventually he surrendered to the waiting arms of the police. In the end, public sentiment ruled in his favor, and charges were dropped in exchange for a performance by Petit for children in Central Park. His breathtaking walk between the Twin Towers has become part of the folklore of New York, made all the more poignant by the horror of 9/11–seven years ago.

The World Trade Center • Phillipe Petit’s signature (4×5 film)
© Brian Rose

In the early ’80s I did a series of photographs of Lower Manhattan, funded by the National Endowment for the Arts, back when there was still NEA support for individual artists. Shortly after the destruction of the Trade Center, I sifted through my archive for photographs that included the WTC. They can be seen here. On of the pictures I came across was taken from the observation deck on Tower 2. I did a high resolution scan of the 4×5 negative and discovered something unseen in normal prints of the image, Philippe Petit’s scratched signature and tightrope icon.

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