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The September 11 Photo Project
is a collection of nearly 200 pages of both color and black and white
photographs by more than one hundred photographers is a small sample of the
more than four thousand that were donated from New York and the rest of the
world. They were first exhibited in a
SoHo gallery in New York City. They
include many images of the Twin Towers being hit by the planes, on fire, collapsing,
and in rubble. No matter how familiar
those images become, they continue to hold great power. Its not just that they are visually
compelling but also that, more than a year after the attack, it is hard to
accept that the towers fell and seeing the photographic evidence is still
What most of these photographs add
to the now familiar is a personal element.
Many of the pictures are accompanied by text written by the photographer
explaining the context of what was happening at the time, or what his or her
reaction was. Other pictures show
people reacting to or affected by the attack. We even see how the photographs
were displayed at the exhibition, attached to the wall by metal clips, grouped
by photographer. This adds a different
dimension to the visual record, deepening the meanings of the images.
Of course, there have been many
television programs featuring the personal stories of those affected by the
attack, and a large number of them have been both gripping and extremely
moving. But the experience of browsing
through a book of photographs is very different; one has more control over the
order one looks at the pages, the time of day and place one views them, how
long one dwells on particular images.
Furthermore, one doesnt have to endure commercials or sponsor messages
during ones viewing, and often one feels less concerned about being
manipulated by the program-makers editorial decisions.
These pictures are deeply personal;
many of them show the shock and horror on the faces of people seeing the Towers
on fire or collapsing, the pain and exhaustion of rescue workers, and the
different messages of anger, revenge, national pride and anti-war feelings of
people reacting to the attack, the various tributes to those who died. Especially haunting are images of New York
City in the nights after immediately after the attack, quiet and still covered
by a cloud of smoke and dust. It is
good to see some photographs from around the rest of the USA and some other
countries, showing different reactions and a few showing the contrast of
different ways of life at the same time as Americans were going through
The September 11 Photo Project
is a book of high quality, full of remarkable photographs. Looking through it may be therapeutic for
some people and may upset others, but one of the most valuable functions it can
serve is to help people achieve a greater sense of understanding of what
happened on the day of the attack and how we reacted to it.
© 2002 Christian Perring. All rights reserved.
Ph.D., is Chair of the Philosophy Department at Dowling College, Long Island.
He is editor of Metapsychology Online Review. His main research is on
philosophical issues in psychiatry. He is especially interested in exploring
how philosophers can play a greater role in public life, and he is keen to help
foster communication between philosophers, mental health professionals, and the