Reading The Pictures is dedicated to the analysis of news photos and media images.
September 12, 2014

9/11: Remarkably, A Photo of the Towers From Thirteen Years Away

Respectful of the anniversary but wary in advance about the inundation of imagery, I wasn’t expecting to post a 9/11 picture here this year — let alone, one more photo of the smoldering towers. (Even still, you wouldn’t be looking at Toby Amies’s photograph if I, or anyone else, had seen it published anywhere before outside Facebook.)  But then, I wouldn’t have imagined seeing a photo yesterday — initially, a Twitter blip amidst the moments of silence, the first responders, the enormous flags in the football stadiums, the burning embers, the falling men — that would actually cause me to look on that day anew.

So, what made that happen? The color (the crisp primary reds, yellows and blues … and then, that pink). The light that morning, so widely noted. The composition (pairs of twins).  Catastrophe as evidenced by Hasidic women drawn to the street without their wigs. Its assuredness simply as street photography. The evocativeness and solidity of the cocked arms (and the consignment to permanent mystery of the actual facial expressions). And, the distance (as if the separation between us and the towers, measured in time versus space, might actually be exactly thirteen years away). But what makes the photo just as vivid is the sentence Toby sent us. You can read a more scripted paragraph here, but burnishing the image still further in New York, in photography, and in as personal and military history, he wrote:

Taken on South 8th Street Williamsburg between Berry and Wythe on a Zeiss Ikon that my Grandmother had swapped for cigarettes during the Berlin airlift.

Toby Amies on the web and on Twitter. Photo published by permission.

(photo: ©Toby Amies)

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