A new exhibition showcasing 51 years of photographs of the World Trade Center is opening at Washington, D.C.’s National Building Museum in time for next month’s 20th anniversary of the September 11 Attacks.
Photographer Camilo José Vergara’s work has garnered quite a bit of critical acclaim, earning the 76-year-old Chile native a McArthur Fellowship in 2002 and a Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2012.
Vergara began documenting the buildings immediately following his move to the city in 1970. At the time, the towers were nearing completion (the North Tower topped out two days before Christmas that year, the South Tower followed the next July), and Vergara, young and looking for a subject in the haze of a post-Vietnam War era New York, found them in the form of Minoru Yamasaki’s twin shimmering masterpieces.
“I closely followed the construction of the towers,” Vergara wrote in an accompanying exhibition essay. “As they rose to become the tallest buildings in the world, I regarded them as a wild expression of mistaken priorities in a troubled time. […] Eventually, my early resentment faded, and I grew to see them as great human creations. As I traveled farther away to photograph the towers from distant boroughs, they seemed to lose their solidity and become mysterious, fantastic, and alluring.”
Vergara has since come to document much of the remarkable changes that the city has endured since the end of the 20th century and sees the exhibition as a tribute to the city and its lost heroes.
“There has been much rebuilding and renewal since 9/11, and I’ve photographed the rise of new skyscrapers built around the memorial pools honoring those who died,” he said. “This exhibition is dedicated to those who perished, those who responded, and those who are rebuilding after September 11, 2001.”
The exhibition The Towers of the WTC: 51 Years of Photographs by Camilo José Vergara opens on September 4th and will run through March 6th. An essay by Vergara commemorating the tragedy's 10th anniversary can be found here.
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