Reading The Pictures is dedicated to the analysis of news photos and media images.
September 13, 2008

September 11, 2008: What Is Still "Ground Zero"

This is the second year BAGnewsNotes has featured Alan Chin’s images of the 9/11 anniversary.  As opposed to our collaboration with Alan on subject matter more related to the “hard news” cycle, this work is much more personal and interpretive.  Given the “expansiveness” of the blog medium, we are happy to offer this work more in the spirit of a gallery exhibition.

The following is Alan’s statement about the images.  His work from last year’s anniversary is linked below.

Seven years after the attack on the World Trade Center, I returned again to the site as I have most years on the anniversary. I was struck with how, if you do not attend the official ceremonies with the families and the politicians, Lower Manhattan becomes a magnet for various groups and individuals touting their causes.

The 9/11 conspiracy theorists of both the far-right and far-left converge in a still small, but very visible presence, demonstrating and parading. Religious women raise their arms in prayer. Cops, both bored and dutiful, are necessarily out in force. Tourists peek under the fence to take photos of what is still “ground zero,” and vendors sell postcards, posters, T-shirts, depicting the event. Around them swirls the normal, everyday life of downtown, office and restaurant workers on breaks, commuters riding the PATH trains.

It is somehow moving, reflective, and exceptionally banal, all at the same time. The partisan politics are sharpened by this election year, as the Republicans attempt to lay “claim” or “ownership” over the legacy and symbolism. The fringe elements are entrenched in kitsch, as with the Chevrolet Corvettes painted with 9/11 imagery, or the bicyclist cruising down Broadway with a large American flag strapped to his seat. Yet for this photographer, and New Yorker, I still find it all to be a deeply personal and emotional experience: September 11, 2001 wasn’t, after all, political in the domestic sense. It was a catastrophic act of war, no more and no less, and its commemoration has devolved into idiosyncratic and extraordinary forms.

See Alan Chin’s 2007 9/11 anniversary images here.

(Images © Alan Chin.  New York. 2008.)

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