the photoshooter's journey from taking to making

THE RISING, COMPLETED

By MICHAEL PERKINS

September 11, 2022

TWENTY-ONE YEARS. The life of a legally arrived adult. The space of a generation. How much time has passed since the horror of 9/11, and yet how immediate remains its emotional resonance. Photographers the world over, then and now, have tried to capture the surreal universal gasp of shock that unfurled in those few minutes on 9/11/01. And now, today, as the wound has become the scar and the flash has morphed into a flashback, an entirely reborn Lower Manhattan both recalls the history and serves, ironically, to obliterate it. For those who make images, the present era is a fraught one.

The first pictures, of course, were of the burning, the dying, the national open grave. The second wave of images was of the remains of people and buildings being literally trucked away, of a starched, scraped plain that promised a a repurposing. Coming soon on this site. Flags and markers and makeshift memorials, as holy as they were to many, were soon ushered offstage, as New York, the city that knows more about staging revivals than any other, prepared for a new production. As a frequent visitor to New York over the past fifteen years, I was present at many of the stages of the set design.

Lights, action, rebirth.

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I have tried to have it both ways with the pictures I have made in the area, with both respectful homages to the sacramentals within the September 11th museum and the memorial pools, and the explosion of creative energy that mushroomed into the new WTC plaza. It’s been a high-wire act, artistically and emotionally, but I feel an urge now, to move my lens almost exclusively to The Next Act, since it now exists not merely as a yearning for a return to normalcy, but as a defiant fait d’accompli, another proof that New Yorkers are always about Getting On With It.

This image, with its lettered reflection of the 90 Church Street Post Office (which was itself littered with falling debris of the twin towers’ collapse), is my attempt to capture past survivors and forward strivers in the same frame, to say, yes, amen, a prayer for the dying, but also yes, hell yes, for the indomitability of America, which honors its founders best when doubters prematurely pronounce it out for the count.

We are back.

We are always back.

We are staying.

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