Thousands of survivors have walked the difficult path of recovery since the September 11, 2001 bombings of the World Trade Center.
And although I began documenting this horrific event shortly after the attacks, focusing on the people who emerged from the burning twin towers alive proved to be not only a daunting, but also a highly emotional task. Previously, I shot a story on the efforts to rebuild the downtown area and I also photographed the Twin Towers of Light on the six month anniversary of the attacks, but this was a different challenge.
I started by photographing the personal objects that were carried out of the towers and also the items that were salvaged during the clean-up process from the rubble. A pair of men’s loafers worn during the escape from a crumbling tower, a framed family picture carried by a woman whose thoughts were of surviving for her children, a crushed fireman’s helmet discovered buried under debris, all speak of the personal experiences that keep the memory of history vivid and fresh, even as the immediacy of tragedy fades.
Taking these pictures was a very emotional experience for me, knowing that some of the items I was shooting belonged to people who had perished. I had access to Hangar 17 at Kennedy International Airport, where some of the large pieces of the Twin Towers were being stored. Photographing what were once the two tallest buildings in the world, now reduced to fragments of metal was unnerving. I began to realize that documenting personal items and pieces of the Towers was not giving me the mood I wanted to achieve. It was too somber, too devastating. Ten years after the tragedy, my goal was to focus on the positive. To achieve this, I shifted my perspective to the living.
If these photos have a mission, it if this: to capture the images of the survivors, those who have moved forward anchored by faith, fortitude or family and those who still struggle with a healing process that remains painful, drawn out and elusive. Each has a story to tell.
Following the 10 year anniversary of the attacks, these photos were exhibited at Fotocare in New York City.
Ira Block is an internationally renowned photojournalist, teacher, and workshop leader who has produced over 30 stories for the National Geographic Magazine and its affiliates N.G. Traveler and Adventure.
He began his career as a newspaper photographer, earning numerous press club awards. As an expert in lighting, Ira is sought after for assignments ranging from shooting ancient artifacts in Greece to photographing dinosaur fossils in the Gobi desert and documenting Moche mummies in Peru. His momentous coffee table book “Saving America’s Treasures” was a collaborative effort among the Clinton White House, National Geographic Society, and the National Trust for Historic Preservation. Ira’s unique vision and outstanding lighting skills have made him the “go to photographer” for complex assignments.
He taught the first creative, digital photography class at the School for Visual Arts in New York City and is frequently called upon to review and critique the latest digital cameras and lenses. He works closely with National Geographic Expeditions lecturing and teaching photography around the world. Ira has also taught workshops in Bangkok and Maine, Abu Dhabi and San Diego, Boston, Seattle and New York City.
In addition to his editorial work Ira shoots commercial and corporate images, portraits, promotional materials and advertising for leading institutions. He also produces corporate digital webcast videos. His photographic exhibit “Faces of Hope”, portraits of survivors and images of objects retrieved from the aftermath of the World Trade Center tragedy, are part of the permanent collection of the National September 11 Memorial and Museum.
His most recent story in the October National Geographic “Earth Before the Ice”, investigates a prehistoric global warming. Ira lives in New York City with his wife and is a frequent blogger on the latest digital camera equipment and gear, lighting techniques, and creative vision in photography.