Category Archives: World Trade Center

New York/Ground Zero


Greenwich Street, Fireman’s Memorial  (4×5 film) — © Brian Rose


Church Street, St. Paul’s Chapel Churchyard (4×5 film) — © Brian Rose

Earlier this week I picked up the film from my two days of shooting around ground zero. So these are scans of 4×5 film. Despite difficult snowy conditions, and a 30 second exposure for the evening shot, both negatives are razor sharp. The tall building at center of both images is One World Trade Center. The sweeping view of the site made next to the Fireman’s Memorial was, until a few weeks ago, blocked by the remnants of the Deutsche Bank building behind the blue fence to the left. I’m very pleased with these images and intend to work them into the WTC book. Stay tuned for several more images.

It’s taken me a while to get these up because I had jury duty–two days on call–didn’t get picked. A jury of your peers in Manhattan can be a pretty rarefied group. A hundred of us were taken into a courtroom for jury selection and 18 were interviewed by the prosecution and defense attorney. You were asked to respond to basic questions about career, education, and family. 17 of the 18 in that first group had college degrees. Many had masters degrees. The jury was selected before I had a chance to be interviewed. It was an armed robbery.


New York/Harlem


Lexington Avenue and 103rd Street — © Brian Rose

A few photos taken while walking back to the subway after visiting with Sean Corcoran, the photography curator at the Museum of the City of New York. I was at the museum to show him my WTC book and discuss with him publishing and exhibition possibilities. The museum is already committed to showing work relating to the Twin Towers by Camilo Jose Vergara. My previous publisher, Princeton Architectural Press, also cited a book they did ten years ago with Vergara as a reason for passing on my book.

With regard to the museum, I can’t exactly complain given that I only put together my book about a month ago, and I am grateful to Sean Corcoran for his ongoing enthusiastic support. There are other exhibition options. But it’s hard for me to run up against Vergara twice, however accidentally, since I do not consider our work very closely related. There is, superficially, the documentation of places over long periods of time, such as the work he has done in Harlem and other low income neighborhoods, but that’s as far as it goes.

Vergara works primarily with a small camera, repeatedly visiting the same locations and views, measuring change in a cumulative brick by brick process. He is as much sociologist as photographer.


Lexington Avenue between 103rd and 104th Streets — © Brian Rose


Lexington Avenue between 103rd and 104th Streets — © Brian Rose

The projects I’ve done came about more organically in most cases, starting out in a limited scope, and then becoming multi-phased explorations. My Iron Curtain work, for instance, began as a single trip along the former borderline, but turned into a near life-long journey, an investigation of the landscape connected to larger geopolitical developments. WTC is comprised of a number of discreet, sometimes overlapping, series of images made over the course of 32 years. I think of the book as the visual equivalent of  a musical composition in which the theme is tentatively introduced in the opening, and then, in steps, develops narratively and dynamically. Both the Iron Curtain and WTC projects end up as meditations on things that no longer exist, structures of symbolic import, that remain held in memory, both personal and collectively.

At this point it looks unlikely that WTC will get published other than as a Blurb book available at a relatively high price. The photo books that will get published will mostly reprise, painfully–sometimes gratuitously–images of exploding planes, collapsing buildings, the heroes in the pit.  My book takes a longer view. Maybe it will reach a larger public after the dust of that day clears, yet again.

New York/WTC


Vesey Street — © Brian Rose

I went back to the WTC site yesterday and spent much of the day there–mostly in three spots. It was a cold cloudy day with snow occasionally falling. Conditions like that make using the view camera difficult, but it was not so extreme as to be unmanageable. I started out in the area around the Path Train station adjacent to 7 WTC, the one element of the new World Trade Center already completed. Tourists milled about an info kiosk, looked at the various renderings and photos plastered to construction fencing, and craned their necks up at 1 WTC, now more than 50 stories high.


Information Kiosk — © Brian Rose


Transportation Center rendering, Vesey Street — © Brian Rose


St. Paul’s churchyard — © Brian Rose

St. Paul’s Chapel survived 9/11 relatively unscathed including the historic gravestones in its churchyard. The sign at the bottom of the photo above shows the spire of the church situated between the former Twin Towers. I did several photographs in the churchyard and then headed back to my studio to warm up and get more film.


Fireman’s Memorial, Greenwich Street — © Brian Rose

When I returned to ground zero the snow had picked up. I did several views in the area around the Fireman’s Memorial. The Deutsche Bank building, which has taken almost ten years to demolish, is now down to the last floor, opening up a panoramic vista of skyscrapers including 1 WTC going up at center of the photo above. I made this iamge by holding my digital camera against the top of the view camera. The exposures with the 4×5 were in the 15 seconds to 1 minute range. Could be snow on the lens, so we’ll see how things turn out when I get the film back.

I am hoping that a few of these images can be incorporated into the WTC book bringing the narrative up to 2011.

New York/WTC


West Street — © Brian Rose

I went downtown this afternoon just after a light snowfall. It was cold, but tolerable and not overly windy. I did several shots with the view camera, one similar to the image above. 1 WTC is now over 50 floors up–almost as high as the adjacent 7 WTC. Visually double the height, and add a spire. That’s how tall this building will be when completed.

I may go back tomorrow. The Deutsche Bank building, which was damaged on 9/11, is now down to its last floor or two. It has taken this long because of a series of delays caused by the discovery of human remains, complicated asbestos removal, an accident, and a fatal fire. The building’s absence opens up new vistas on the overall site and removes a curse–if you believe such things–from ground zero.

My WTC book proposal will be reviewed by a publisher next week. Keep your fingers crossed–if you believe such things. See the book here.

New York/WTC


Lower Manhattan Skyline, 1982 (4×5 film) — © Brian Rose and Ed Fausty

This is lower Manhattan at its most heroic and romantic seen from the upper floor of a building in Brooklyn Heights. Since 1982, several bulky buildings have blocked up the foreground and obscured the thin spires of the early 20th century–and of course, the Twin Towers are gone. 1 World Trade Center is about 50 floors up now, and soon it will begin to rise above everything else.

After receiving a hardcopy version of WTC, my new book proposal concerning the World Trade Center, I decided to make a few changes. Text smaller, a few sequence tweaks, and a new end piece. I also created a text page opposite the image of the Deutsche Bank building, a cursed structure if ever there was one, only now about to fully demolished. It needed some explication.

I am reaching out to everyone I can about the book. I have some very good contacts, but limited. I need someone to come through for me on this. Otherwise, I’m not sure how this book will see the light of day.

The new version of WTC can be previewed here.

New York/Lower East Side


Stanton Street — © Brian Rose

Digging out today.

Please visit Reciprocity Failure for a few comments on one of my photographs. And take a look at my proposed World Trade Center book here. Let me know what you think.


Third Avenue and E5th Street — © Brian Rose

Shepard Fairey mural on the Cooper Square Hotel.

New York/WTC Book


Front cover of WTC — © Brian Rose

I’ve more or less finished with the first draft of WTC, my photo book about the World Trade Center. Like so much I’ve been doing lately I have no idea what the outcome of it all will be. This ought to be a “popular” book, but it’s an oblique glance rather than a series of straight on architectural views. The fact is, none of the earlier photos were ever intended to be primarily about the WTC or the Twin Towers. Only the later pictures, the ground zero views, and the found vernacular images of the Twin Towers were consciously made as such. In many ways the book is about memory and the ephemeral presence of the towers on the skyline. My favorite illustration of the Twin Towers is the New Yorker cover done by Art Spiegelman–black towers against a black background. They are barely visible.


New Yorker cover by Art Spiegelman

The book is comprised of a number of different sections corresponding to time period and camera format. The earliest pictures were made in the late ’70s on 35mm Kodachrome, the ’80s pictures were made on 4×5 film, and most of the recent ground zero photos were done on 4×5. The post 9/11 Twin Towers collection was mostly done with a digital pocket camera, either a Ricoh GR or Sigma DP1. It’s interesting to see them together in a book all printed at the same scale despite coming from drastically different file sizes.


Close up of the skin of WTC tower — © Brian Rose

To break up the parts, or chapters, of the book, I’ve made made tightly cropped images of the skin of the Twin Towers–the pin striping that made the buildings seem to shimmer or appear slightly fuzzy from a distance. These cropped images bleed to the edges of the page and act as dividers.


Close up of the skin of WTC tower — © Brian Rose

I haven’t decided whether to make the book public on Blurb as yet, but I will make it semi-public here on my blog. Take a look. Any feedback is, of course, appreciated. Be kind. I’ve put days and days into this not counting the shooting itself. Be sure to look at the full screen preview.

New York/Barclay-Vesey


Barclay-Vesey building with 1 and 7 WTC (4×5 film) — © Brian Rose

This is one of my favorite buildings in NY–the Barclay-Vesey building–one of the great Art Deco telephone buildings. I’ve photographed it before–this time, from a few months ago, with the 4×5 camera. It’s a wonderfully athletic structure doing a sort of architectural twist at the hips. Already, the 1 WTC is twice is high, and will soon fill the entire patch of sky to the right.

New York/On the FDR


On the FDR Drive — © Brian Rose/Ed Fausty

Manhattan back in 1982 had many areas that were extremely quiet, even desolate. Few people lived in lower Manhattan then, and the weekends were exceptionally still. One Sunday morning Ed Fausty and I actually walked up on the FDR Drive and took several photographs. You would not want to try that today at any time of the week.

This is a new–and dramatically improved–scan of an image on my WTC webpage. I’ll update those images once I’m finished with the new ones.

New York/Under the FDR


Under the FDR Drive, 1982 (4×5 film) — © Brian Rose/Ed Fausty

I am working on a book about the World Trade Center that spans a 32 year time period. It’s a big job pulling together all the images from my archive, scanning new images and rescanning older material. In some ways this will be a book about the ghost of an icon in the way that my Berlin pictures, post-Wall, are about something that no longer exists. The fall of the Berlin Wall–marking the end of the Cold War–led to a profound reconfiguring of world politics. The fall of the Twin Towers signaled another altering of the world order–possibly not to the benefit of the United States, which appears vulnerable as a world power since 9/11. Such opinions, of course, lie outside the scope of my photographs, though they invite the viewer to take a long view of such matters.

The photograph above, which has never been printed before, was taken by me and Ed Fausty in 1982 underneath the FDR Drive in the area of the Fulton Fish Market. We were still working together at the completion of the Lower East Side project. It was a sullen day, the sun weakly shining between the buildings. A backlit situation, the warm glow at center/left is the sun position. Very difficult to print–or in this case work up in Photoshop.

For those interested in technical things, I selected the shadow areas of the image, and worked with curves to try to coax tonal range out of what could easily turn into a black mass. Working on contrast globally without selecting can be problematic because highlight detail is easily lost. The shadow /highlight tool can be useful if handled with care. Often I anchor points on the RGB curve at either end, and push and pull in between to achieve mid-range contrast. I also used a Wacom pen to paint dark and light areas, zooming in to small pieces of the image to work at a more detailed level. There is a limit to how much you can open up shadows, and if there’s nothing there, it should stay black. In a previous post I railed against Ansel Adams and his zone system approach to printing, but I’m not opposed to the idea of  achieving a full range of tonal values. I prefer, however, to work more intuitively.

You won’t be able to see this at the resolution of  your computer screen, but there are about 15 people standing on the observation deck of WTC 2 to the left. Easily visible in a decent sized print–if I ever get the chance to do an exhibition.

New York/Notes in Passing


Bookthugnation in Williamsburg — © Brian Rose

From the window of bookthugnation in Williamsburg, a reminder that rewriting or distorting history using photographs predates the invention of Photoshop.

Although I still don’t have a publisher for Time and Space on the Lower East Side, the book remains available for purchase via Blurb. At the end of March I will be doing a slide talk featuring the Lower East Side book at the Midtown public library on Fifth Avenue. I’ll provide more information as the date approaches.

Despite the lack of publisher, I am working on another book, this one about the World Trade Center. Hopefully, an antidote to the kinds of books I expect to see coinciding with the 10th anniversary of 9/11.

I will post more about this soon, but I envision the book as a visual elegy, a collection of several series of images–the Twin Towers glimpsed in early 35mm slides, monumental 4×5 views of Lower Manhattan from 1982, pictures made just after 9/11 of lower Broadway and the memorial at Union Square Park, recent images of the periphery of ground zero, and digital snapshots of Twin Towers images collected since I’ve been doing this blog.


The Dakota Apartments (4×5 film) — © Brian Rose

Finally, I’d like to take note that 30 years ago today John Lennon was gunned down outside the Dakota apartment building on Central Park West. Lennon was not just my “favorite Beatle,” he was one of the people who most inspired me as a young artist–songwriter and photographer. I never had the chance to see him perform live, but once saw him walking through Central Park arm in arm with Yoko Ono.

The photograph above was, which is from my New York primeval series, was taken from within the park. The image was one of several used by the Central Park Conservancy as thank yous to benefactors. My understanding is that a print of this photograph was given to Yoko Ono when she provided the money to create and maintain the landscape of Strawberry Fields, a part of Central Park near the Dakota dedicated to John Lennon.

Strawberry Fields forever.

New York/Gowanus Canal


Smith Street Station, Brooklyn — © Brian Rose

If you’ve been following this blog, you know that I have been piecing together a series of images that relate directly or indirectly to the World Trade Center. A couple of years ago I came across a Twin Towers mural near the Gowanus Canal in Brooklyn. I did a quick snapshot of it with the intention of returning to photograph it with the view camera. This morning, I finally got back there.

I took the F Train, which emerges from underground just past Carroll Gardens in Brooklyn. The tracks are carried high up on a massive steel bridge that spans the Gowanus Canal, an infamously polluted industrial area that has become a haven for artists, and as a result, ripe for upper middle class development. With the downturn in the economy, however, and given the cost of cleaning up the area, not much has happened. The Gowanus is still a fabulously gritty blue collar lowland between Carroll Gardens and Park Slope, two of Brooklyn’s most desirable neighborhoods.


WTC mural on Smith Street, Brooklyn — © Brian Rose

Across the street from the subway entrance is a somewhat forlorn car wash decorated with tattered red white and blue streamers–but across Smith Street a row of old houses with slanted roofs and dormer windows is being renovated. The WTC mural with its flag motif  is painted on the side of a small building next to a chain linked vacant lot. Across the street from the mural is a heating oil depot where trucks drive up and fill their tanks. A glass enclosed command post overlooks the operation, and when I set up my camera on the asphalt just off the sidewalk, I was informed by a stern voice coming over a loudspeaker that I was standing on private property. I managed to get off one shot with my 4×5 camera.


Smith Street, Brooklyn — © Brian Rose

Retreating from the oil depot, I went across the street and set up the camera at an oblique angle to the mural. Promptly, a gruff voice barked accusingly, “Are you taking a picture of my truck?” I jerked my head toward the voice, and saw a grinning face sitting behind the wheel of a truck with a battered container mounted behind. He was kidding. I told him I just got yelled at by the guys across the street, and was a little jumpy. We chatted a bit, he smiled for the camera and roared off.


WTC mural on Smith Street, Brooklyn — © Brian Rose

Here is the image taken from “private property.” And while I think the 4×5 shot will be good, I really like these two white trucks caught left and right in the frame. You don’t see it the pictures, but there were lots of people walking around–some pretty damaged people it seemed to me–probably coming from some sort of social services facility nearby. Others were standing around under the subway viaduct waiting for a bus, or perhaps, waiting to be picked up as day laborers.

One guy started talking to me, asked me what I was doing. I pointed to the mural and told him I was photographing WTC things. He asked me about the mosque/cultural center proposed for downtown near ground zero. I looked at him more intently–he seemed to be Hispanic–I didn’t ask him where he was from. He had just seen an article in the paper. The group building the center was applying for money meant to support projects around the Word Trade Center site. The right wingers were agitating again. He wanted to know what I thought about it. I said, ” I know Christians, Jews, and I know Muslims. This is New York. I think they should be able to build their center. He said, somewhat to my surprise, “I’m with you.”

New York/World Trade Center

Fire Department of New York Memorial Wall (4×5 film) © Brian Rose

A newly scanned image of the FDNY Memorial Wall.  When I made this photo a couple of winters ago, I was struck by the expanse of blank wall above the horizontal bas relief of the WTC image and firefighters. A soldier accompanied by family or friends walked into my frame. While construction proceeds on the footprint memorials and museum nearby, this is one of the few official acknowledgements of  9/11 downtown. The wall is currently roofed over by a sidewalk shed due to construction and demolition going on in the area.

As the 9th anniversary of 9/11 approaches, Iraq remains a battleground, despite the withdrawal of American combat forces, and the war against the Taliban in Afghanistan goes on, endlessly. Right wingers agitate against an Islamic cultural center several blocks from ground zero, and Christian extremists threaten to burn Korans–hatred engendered by the act of hatred nine years ago.

New York/World Trade Center

World Trade Center and Woolworth Building, 1982 (4×5 film) — © Brian Rose/Ed Fausty

One key image of the World Trade Center that I did with Ed Fausty in 1982 has been missing for many years.  I’ve been through every negative I have from that period of time. The 4×5 is definitely gone forever. Recently, however, I found a print of that image in one of my boxes–a 16×20, slightly yellowed, but otherwise in pretty good shape.

I have scanned the print at high resolution, and the much reduced jpeg can be seen above. My vantage point is somewhere on the raised plaza of Police Headquarters–not sure that the same spot can still be reached. To the right above the trees is the cupola of City Hall, and the spire of St. Paul’s is center left.

Be sure to click on the photo for a larger view.

New York/World Trade Center


Battery Park City and 2 WTC, 1981 — © Brian Rose

After completing the original Lower East Side project in 1981, Ed Fausty and I were asked to join several other photographers in documenting Lower Manhattan–funded by the National Endowment for the Arts. Initially we worked together, as with the LES photos, but eventually began shooting independently. Many of the images included the World Trade Center, some of which can be seen here. I am in the process of rescanning everything at higher resolution–I’ve also gotten a lot better on Photoshop and want to rework the images I did four or five years ago. The image above was never printed or scanned until now.

New York/World Trade Center


St. Nicholas Church, 1981 (4×5) — © Brian Rose/Ed Fausty

In midst of the furor about the proposed Islamic center a few blocks from ground zero, the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese has held a press conference to call attention to the long stalled rebuilding of St. Nicholas’s Church, which was destroyed on 9/11.

From the Times:

At a news conference near the trade center site, church officials appeared with former Gov. George E. Pataki and a Greek-American Congressional candidate from Long Island — both opponents of the Islamic center — to make their case: Government officials who appear to be clearing the way for the center, which includes a mosque, are blocking the reconstruction of St. Nicholas Church, the only house of worship destroyed in the terrorist attacks.

Beautiful. Let’s all get as nakedly political as possible.

New York/World Trade Center


World Trade Center/Ground Zero (4×5 film) — © Brian Rose

As the “debate” swirls around the “ground zero mosque,” (which isn’t a mosque and isn’t at ground zero), here is another view of construction underway on the site. Similar to the small camera shot I posted a few weeks ago, this was made with the view camera.