Steve Jobs • 1955-2011
The WTC montage is up and it looks pretty cool. Don’t miss the opening reception this Wednesday. There will be nine WTC images on exhibit in the cafe, which is directly across the street from the installation. Hopefully, the weather will allow for outdoor mingling.
77 East 4th Street
Wednesday, September 28
This morning, an article and podcast interview about my photographs of the World Trade Center is featured on the front page of CNN.com. Be sure to listen to the podcast, which is down on the left side of the page.
Article, photos, and interview can be found here.
Yesterday I was interviewed by CNN radio for a piece they are doing about the loss of the Twin Towers on the city’s skyline and about the rapidly rising 1 WTC tower, which is intended to replace, visually and symbolically, the iconic presence of the former skyscrapers. I brought my WTC book with me, and talked about some of the pictures and answered questions from CNN correspondent Steve Katzenbaum.
We met in the small triangular park at Greenwich Street and Vesey Street just below 1 WTC. The tower appears about 2/3 of the way up. It’s a busy spot with commuters coming to and from the PATH station while gawking tourists and hard hatted construction workers commingle.
I don’t yet have a time and date for the broadcast, which I believe will be available as a podcast on the CNN website.
WTC montage — © Brian Rose
In my book, WTC, I used cropped close-ups of the facade of the Twin Towers to break up the different groupings , or chapters, of photographs. I found them intriguing as images on their own–abstract, but clearly identifiable. One of them shows a strip of blue, which is the sky between the two towers. A few months ago I began playing with close-ups in Photoshop making montages of the images, eventually settling on a sequence with the strip of sky in the center–as seen above.
I presented the montage to FAB (Fourth Arts Block), which is sponsoring a program called ArtUp. FAB is located on E4th Street between 2nd and 3rd Avenues, a block full of theaters and other cultural organizations. Several of the groups are renovating their buildings necessitating sidewalk sheds to protect passersby. FAB is making use of these scaffolding bridges to give artists the opportunity to show their work in a public space.
I am pleased to report that that I have been invited by FAB to mount my WTC montage on the sidewalk shed pictured above. I’ve seen several of the previous installations, and the best of them are site specific. My montage, as originally conceived, almost fits perfectly on the sidewalk shed–4×28 feet. The strip of images will be printed on vinyl or Tyvek and attached to the plywood backing of the shed. Assuming good color and sharpness, it will look something like the superimposed image above. The orange and white barricades will be removed soon reducing a lot of visual clutter. Directly across the street, FAB runs a cafe that caters to the theater going public, as well as the local neighborhood, and I will be able use a wall inside for supporting material, probably a number of photographs and text panels.
Although I have to admit that I hoped for a more prominent location for the piece somewhere downtown, I am wholly enthusiastic about doing this installation here. This is a very busy block with thousands of people walking by each day, and crowds lining up each evening to attend the theaters. Not only that, this is the block where I lived when I first came to New York, where I worked with the Cooper Square Committee to preserve and build low income housing, and where I first met my wife who was visiting from the Netherlands. It is the block pictured on the cover of Time and Space on the Lower East Side, my book about the neighborhood. It is a very special place to me.
The installation will go up in late September when attention is focused on the 10th anniversary of 9/11. I will also be doing a slide talk based on my WTC book at the Mid-Manhattan branch of the public library around the same time as the opening on 4th Street. The dates for both events will be made available soon. WTC–both the installation and book–are modest in scale compared to what will be happening down at ground zero in a few months. But I hope they will serve as a kind of antidote to the Sturm und Drang that will accompany those major public events, and offer images of the World Trade Center that evoke memory and history without a repetition of the violent imagery that inevitably will be exploited by the media.
I feel strongly that artists–and New Yorkers–have a responsibility to step up and express alternate ways of commemorating 9/11. It happened to us, to our town, to our friends and loved ones, and it profoundly altered all our lives. This piece, ultimately, is about the ubiquitous presence of the Twin Towers on the skyline–as architecture and memory–and about its absence. A patch of blue sky.
The President was in New York last week in the wake of the killing of Osama bin Laden. He lunched with firemen from a company that lost men on 9/11 and greeted families of others who died at ground zero. I went downtown on Friday, a couple of days after Obama’s visit, to see how things were going. One World Trade Center appears now to be sixty or more stories high, and the above ground part of the 9/11 memorial and museum is being rushed to completion. Just a few months ago it was a steel skeleton–now it is mostly enclosed. I made several photographs with the view camera in the area just south of Liberty Street near the Fireman’s Memorial. I also snapped a few shots with my digital camera.
Tourists jammed the sidewalk near the Fireman’s Memorial, and possibly because of Obama’s recent visit, there were lots of flowers and pictures placed along the wall of the memorial. There were no such items the last few times I’d been there. A tour guide led a large group of out-of-towers by the memorial and I heard her refer to those “murdered” on 9/11. There was a thinly veiled anger conveyed by the use of the word murder. Yes, it’s true that those killed when the planes were crashed into the towers were, technically speaking, murdered in an act of violence. As are any victims of terrorism worldwide. And what about the innocent victims of unjustified wars? I’m not interested in a moral equivalency argument here. It’s clear enough what happened on 9/11. I just think it is better to tone down the rhetoric.
On the subway heading back uptown, I saw a construction worker from the World Trade Center site. His hardhat was decorated with stickers, one for the 9/11 memorial and an another with a flag and the Twin Towers.
WTC book cover — © Brian Rose
WTC is now available for purchase. Call it a soft opening, I will be sending out books to key editors and individuals, and will endeavor to gradually get the word out. I will certainly do an announcement at my Lower East Side slide talk on March 29. Scroll down for information about that. I’ll be doing reminders as the date approaches.
The book is available in two sizes, 8×10 and 11×13. The large book is really beautiful. It is made with heavier paper, a bit glossier coating, hard cover only. It is $125. If you can afford it, get this one. The small book is available in either soft or hard cover at $45 or $57.
All my books are now available in the sidebar to the right or from my books page here.
This is still a ways off, so this is an early alert. I’m planning to step through the book, reading short text pieces, and sharing observations and anecdotes. I will have a limited number of books for sale, and plan to use the occasion to announce my new WTC book. I will, of course, be available for questions afterwards, and look forward to meeting people. Hope to see you there!
This may be the first Blurb book presentation at the New York Public Library. A commentary of sorts on the state of photo book publishing.
Don’t worry, I’ll be posting reminders as the date approaches.
I’ve been reading Through the Lens of the City, NEA Photography Surveys of the 1970s by Mark Rice. A few comments mid-stream.
The NEA survey grants were an outgrowth of a proposal championed by Walter Mondale to commemorate the U.S. bicentennial by commissioning photographers to create a visual documentation of America along the lines of the work done by the FSA in the 1930s. That initiative died of politics, but the National Endowment for the Arts picked up the ball themselves and established the survey program that ran for several years.
In all of this, there were lots of arguments about what kind of documentary photography was desired. The work done by Walker Evans and Dorothea Lange–and many others–were recognized as the paradigm, but perhaps for the wrong reasons, or as the result of misunderstandings. Lange produced iconic images that sought to ennoble the poor farmers she photographed. And Evans was attracted to the humble vernacular structures of the south. His intellectual clarity transcended the nostalgic nature of the subject matter, and his evenhanded visual discipline provided a way to show places, things, and people which would otherwise remain invisible. Both Lange and Evans–as different from each other as they were–defined a new hybrid kind of photography that was both document and art.
The America the FSA photographers presented was a narrow view of society, intentionally of course, as part of the mandate of the Farm Security Administration. What the bicentennial project envisioned was something more ambitious, but nevertheless rooted in the FSA style of documentation, and preferably directed by someone with the strong vision of the FSA’s Roy Stryker. When the NEA took over the idea, they set up a more diverse and geographically dispersed structure. Hence there were survey projects scattered all over the United States, and unlike the rural based FSA photography, most were focused on urban areas.
By the time I was asked to participate in the Lower Manhattan project, the survey program had just about run its course. I had just completed photographing the Lower East Side with collaborator Ed Fausty, so naturally I–we–jumped at the chance to extend the project further. I don’t think we ever had a sense of what the bigger context was, that this was one of dozens of similar survey projects in other communities. In the end, ours was a failed project. There was no book or catalog, only an exhibition in Federal Hall on Wall Street that was not critically reviewed. As far as I know none of the work was placed in an archive for future research or perusal.
The work Ed and I did together or separately ended it up in boxes. It’s clear, however, in putting together the series of images for WTC, my book about the World Trade Center, that we were onto something.
Although I’ve been posting photographs of the World Trade Center made in 1981, I also did lots of photographs of Lower Manhattan that did not include the constantly looming Twin Towers. And not all were sweeping views of the skyline like so many of the images in my WTC book. The picture above was made one evening on Wall Street, the spire of Trinity Church in the background echoed nicely by the icons on the Johnny Walker billboard. “Moon Can’t Be Deported” refers to Sun Myung Moon of the Unification Church who was in trouble because of tax fraud.
In the midst of the current drama in Egypt there was an article in the Times this morning about a possible merger between the Frankfurt exchange and the New York Stock Exchange. In practical terms such a merger would only highlight the increasingly international nature of finance. When I took the photograph above, trading was mostly done directly on the floor of the nearby stock exchange. But symbolically, this could be a big deal–a perceived loss of prestige–and it will be interesting to see how it plays out politically.
I am still reading Lens of the City, which tells the history of the documentary survey grants made by the National Endowment for the Arts in the late 70s and early 80s. My Lower Manhattan pictures were funded by one of those NEA grants. Comments and thoughts to come soon.
Showed my work to Robert Mann the gallery owner–someone I’ve stayed in touch with over the years. He likes my work a lot, and will keep me in mind as things go along. Meanwhile, I keep schlepping my portfolio around.
In the previous post I began discussing Through the Lens of the City, NEA Photography Surveys of the 1970s by Mark Rice. From 1978 to 1981 the National Endowment for the Arts funded documentary photography projects around the country. I was a participant in the Lower Manhattan survey, which began in 1981. In the appendix of the book is a list of all the surveys, but my name (and Ed Fausty’s) is not included among the photographers doing the New York project.
The quick explanation is that one of the original participants, Evelyn Hofer, was unable to take part–for reasons I can’t recall. Although my memory is fuzzy, I believe that Sy Rubin, another of the photographers, asked me and Ed Fausty to step in. Sy, who at that time ran the Midtown Y photography gallery–an important gallery and photographer’s clubhouse–knew us from the Lower East Side project, and was one of the organizers of the Lower Manhattan survey. I am only one of many photographers mentored by Sy Rubin, a man of great generosity with a discerning eye. Sy Rubin died a few years ago.
The Lower Manhattan survey project was eventually exhibited in 1984 at Federal Hall on Wall Street. I have not been able to find much about it on the internet, but here is an article that ran in the New York Times–and proof that Ed Fausty and I were indeed included:
It is interesting that Lower Manhattan is described in the article as humming with activity, “more so recently – when it seems never to shut down – than in past years when keyed to office hours.” It is true that artists had moved into many of the smaller commercial structures of the area, but compared to the present, the Financial District was desolate after hours and on weekends. Moreover, there are no longer any “musty, narrow byways.” Narrow streets, yes–one of the pleasures of walking the area is retracing the original Dutch layout of New Amsterdam. But musty, no. The picture above was taken from the roadway of the FDR Drive on a Sunday morning. Try doing that now.
The images of the World Trade Center recently posted were not made as a specific project to photograph the Twin Towers and the WTC complex. They come from a more comprehensive look at Lower Manhattan that I did with Ed Fausty in 1981 and 1982. Ed and I–after the Lower East Side project–were asked to participate in a photographic survey sponsored by the Seaman’s Church Institute and funded by the National Endowment for the Arts. We began working together, as we had previously, but eventually finished the project separately.
The image above of the Trinity churchyard on Broadway–made in early 1981–was taken shortly after a ticker tape parade welcoming home the diplomats held hostage in Iran in the wake of the Iranian revolution. It should be noted that events presently unfolding in Egypt echo that event. An authoritarian government stands on the brink while millions demonstrate in the street. In Iran the widely unified opposition to the Shah gave rise to the religious extremism of the Ayatollahs. There is hope that things will turn out better in Egypt.
Since digging into my Lower Manhattan archive I’ve been doing a little research on how that project came about. I came across a book published in 2005 called Through the Lens of the City, NEA Photography Surveys of the 1970s. It’s written by Mark Rice, a historian, and tells the story of the short-lived grant program intended to produce a portrait of American urban life. I recall doing the project without a great deal of background knowledge on how my work, and the five other photographers involved, fit into the bigger scheme. This book will fill in the gaps.
I will comment more once I’ve read further, but first, let’s look at the appendix for a list of all the projects.
No Brian Rose or Ed Fausty. Down the memory hole again. To be continued…
I finally got the film back from the subway trip to Smith Street in the area near the Gowanus Canal. The image in WTC was from my small digital camera–the one above is from a 4×5 negative. Several pictures I took there are usable, but I think I will stick with this view.
This is the 4×5 version of an image posted earlier show 1 WTC and 7 WTC in the center.
I will update my WTC book with the images above and the two below. I’ve felt that the series needed strengthening near the end. These should do the trick.
At this point, unless something unexpected happens with a publisher, I am planning on putting this book out on Blurb in two sizes–the full size 11×13 hardcover and an 8×10 hard and softcover. The smaller books will sell for $45 to $55 as opposed to $100 plus for the larger size. From an aesthetic standpoint, the 11×13 best conveys the monumental nature of the subject, but the small book will look good, too. All three of my self-produced books will be available in the 8×10 format including Time and Space on the Lower East Side and Berlin: In from the Cold.
I’ll post a new link to the updated book once it’s ready. Link here.