Rob Clark/Institute – From my roof on 9-11


Interview with Robert Clark on this sequence he made on 9-11..Rob was my good neighbor for 4 years.

 

DAH…..

Rob tell me about the making of this picture..this sequence

ROB….

I had just come back from spending the night at the house of my girlfriend..Got to 475 Kent at 8:30am ..She called me after and told me a plane had hit the Twin towers…The view from my apartment was of the Twin Towers, but I was on the computer , my back was to this scene..

Luckily, I had my cameras ready to go and packed because I was set to go on a Natgeo story…So i grabbed the whole kit and headed for the roof

DAH  ..

How long were you on the roof before you saw this second plane coming?

ROB…

I got up to the roof at 8:54 a.m. and the second plane hit Tower #2 at 9:03 a.m., so I did not have much time to think. I had a 280mm (converted) lens and shooting film. I was composing and shooting Tower #1 burning, thinking that was THE shot. I had only 10 pictures left on the roll , when I saw the second plane coming…The first picture above was the second picture I took, frame #25…I shot the rest of the roll in the next 10 seconds….I knew i had it… Certain. Was also certain the world had just changed.

DAH..

I remember seeing you that day riding your bike up 6 th avenue, heading uptown..I was walking up too, and I remember you offered me your bike..This must have been just a few hours after you took this picture. I never forgot that offer. I think you have a real sense of community in you Rob. I mean you built population of the now famous Kibbutz where we all lived and from our roof this picture was made. Do you miss our kibbutz community since you have now moved away?

ROB..

Yes of course. It was a real photographic  inspiration just living in that building. After all we had Chris Anderson, Tim Hetherington, Alex Majoli, Stanley Greene, Paolo Pellegrin, Thomas Dvorzak, Lorena Ros, David Coventry and Alex Di Suvero and oh yea, you!! So many many good times and of course the list of visitors to that building is EVERYBODY in the biz.. I mean almost everybody in the photo world in New York came to our building. You played no small part in that yourself Harvey.

DAH

Well you made this historic picture before I moved into the building. But you were a great neighbor for 3 years . If I needed a cup of sugar , you had one. All good things do indeed come to an end. Damn. Those golden years at the Kibbutz went by too fast. Fortunately we all have so many other pictures from this rooftop , that we can try to forget yours. Great shot, but we do want to forget ..Right?

ROB..

Now on the 10th anniversary, we realize we really cannot forget. Because it is more than a memory. It is still happening. An ongoing attack. Or at least we think it is. Affects still today almost every aspect of our lives. Not just America. Worldwide.
Related links

Rob Clark
Institute

 

Editor’s note:

Rob will be jumping in on the comments today to answer your questions… – dah

65 Responses to “Rob Clark/Institute – From my roof on 9-11”


  • A sad day for many

    To some whom the events are not personal we are overrun by political/media mileage gained by what happened…………

    Affects still today almost every aspect of our lives. Not just America. Worldwide…………… in some parts of the world it is minimum to none though the American/world media wants it otherwise.

    It all keeps that “war in terror” alive and kicking, maybe it is all still financially viable for the arms dealers of the world and the financial kickbacks

    My condolences to those that still suffer

  • What I remember most about that day was watching this plane hit the second tower on television and absolutely refusing to believe what I had just seen. I had never been in a mental space where I simply disassociated from what I could see unfolding right in front of me. What made the event real, what broke the disbelief, were the reports and then the footage of people jumping out of the towers to escape the flames. I have had to contend with a horrible fear of heights my entire life; I don’t go up on ladders, I don’t sit near windows, I would never go to the roof of the kibbutz, and when driving over bridges I am invariably in the center lane looking straight ahead of me at the road. To be faced with that choice, of burning alive or leaping to one’s death, is, for me, so utterly terrible that I don’t even want to imagine the possibility of it happening. And yet for those people, it did happen. They went to work on a bright and sunny Tuesday morning just like any other bright and sunny late summer day in New York, and they never came back. That night was one of the quietest I can ever remember. There were no trains that night; there are always trains here; I have spent my life listening to them rumbling through our happy little burg and blasting their damn horns at all hours of the day and night. There were no ships on the river and no planes overhead, except for an occasional passing fighter jet every couple of hours or so. It was just the eeriest silence you never heard. And although I know it may diminish me to say I took pleasure in the death of any man, I still get a feeling of satisfaction knowing that the last thing Osama bin Laden saw in this world was an American sailor pointing a gun at his chest and pulling the trigger.

  • i found it! a negative i shot up in the Twin Towers!…4 or 5 shots back in 1995..as a tourist…my girlfriend back then INSISTED AND INSISTED TO go on that roof (no roof really, just the very top) and shoot photos…u see i have a Fear of Heights so that would be the last thing to wanna do..go on the top and shoot the photos..but anyways..we did go up..all the way up..to the top…those were the FASTEST ELEVATORS i ever experienced..i was dizzy when we made it up, that cold february morning..i’ll never forget the view from up there..never..ever..ever..
    but anyway, i found the negatives..i need to find a scanner and turn them into digital, otherwise , how can i show you????

  • I don’t know anyone for whom the attacks of 9/11 were not personal. I did not lose a relative or friend, but they were most personal to me. I mourned grievously and have never felt the same sinee. On that day, which was as beautiful, sunny and warm here as it was there, I sat in the front of the TV from morn until night, except for two brief interludes. Seven weeks earlier, our cat, Chicago, who had never before stepped outside the house did, and she vanished. Then, we found her, trapped, starving, a bag of dehydrated skin filled with bones, finally, not long before the attack. She was dying and I had to take her to the vet, regardless of the international crisis, to save her life.

    At another point, I drove down to the gray, glacier-silty Matanuska river, where a clear-water stream flows in. I sat with my wife on the bank and watched spawned-out salmon going through their death throes, many already dead, some lying at the bottom of the clear water, or on the bank, rotting, stinking.

  • Akaky , i remember the feeling of that day, till today, a punch in the stomach, …speechless..i was living in Venice Beach that time and i remember, i went to the coffee shop in santa monica and then i stayed late at my friends home by the airport..eerie creepy feeling..no airplanes on the sky..no cars on venice boulevard, LA was dead, shocked..in fear..everyone was speculating an attack in LA and we were all freaking out…for months and months..and years…..its 2011 and still…

  • I did come very close to losing a good friend, however. George Ahmaogak, the very person whose picture is on the cover of my book, Gift of the Whale, had gone to New York and was scheduled to be in a meeting in Tower 2 – I do not remember what floor, but, if I recall correctly, above the impact. The airline failed to deliver his luggage, he had no decent clothes to wear and so he skipped that meeting. Then he watched the towers come down.

  • Here is a photo I took looking the other way… from the roof of the East Tower of the World Trade Center looking across the East River, the Brooklyn and Manhattan Bridges, towards where David and Robert Clark’s building is located. The photo was shot in August, 1977 with my brand-new Pentax MX manual SLR bought 2 days before:

    http://www.telcomplus.net/satkins/photo5.html

  • “It is still happening. An ongoing attack. Or at least we think it is.”

    It’s not so much an ongoing attack as it is a obvious, continued response to a massive over-reaction to what was essentially a criminal act by a handful of douchebags. We’ve granted those 19 assholes more respect than was ever deserved by invading two countries, killing hundreds of thousands of human beings, turning the U.S. into a lesser democracy, curbing basic constitutional freedoms, torturing innocents, squandering billions, ruining the economy, forever damaging the psyche of thousands of American men and women in the military, etc, etc, etc… and today, ten years later… we are no safer than we ever were. Not one iota. Bin Laden is dead? So what. Big fucking deal. Walking the streets of DC and NY it is not at all unlikely to find assault weapons and military-type vehicles roaming about. So macho.

    The world changed that day, for sure. For the worse.

    Yay America.

  • Washington, DC… Ten years on…

    http://instagr.am/p/Msmev/

    And I believe that’s an AR-15, not M-16. (thanks Pete!)

  • I’d have felt safer if our response to 911 had been to attack Pakistan rather than Iraq. Been a lot cheaper, too. We don’t have a very good record in picking our friends.

  • Why Pakistan, Jim? How many hijackers were from Pakistan? How many from Saudi Arabia? How many were funded by Pakistan? Saudi Arabia?

  • I was in the newsroom of a small daily newspaper, middle America, and everyone is watching the news. Confused. When the second plane hit, the editor and publisher just shook his head, looked down, took off his glasses, started cleaning them and said, very quietly, “It’s war.”

  • “i knew i had it”…(the shot), sums up everything i hate about photojournalism. But I guess we all do that as photographers. And I’m still pissed from that day.

  • For those not familiar with the geography of NYC, in my photo linked above, 475 Kent Ave. is in the upper left corner… depending on the size and resolution of your monitor, about 2 inches in from the left edge and 1.5 inches down from the top edge… just behind the last finger of docks on the left jutting out from the Brooklyn side of the East River… the building is set back just a bit from the water’s side. Over on the left edge you can just make out part of the ramp for the Williamsburg Bridge.

  • Sidney, yes, thank u! i can see the Kibbutz!

  • ROBERT
    Thank you for your generosity and kindness when you shared these slides with me 3 years ago, while I was a student at David’s Loft workshop. You opened your door and your heart when we spent that afternoon speaking of that day, my father, and the story of how you made these images. That afternoon is an indelible memory and a constant reminder of the connection those of us affected will always have.

    DAVID
    Thank you for your constant and unwavering support as I have tried to use my camera as a healing tool during these impossible moments of tragic loss. The process and the personal connections made (Bob B, Mike C) have been much more healing and meaningful than the results and it is these things that are going to see me through.

    You teach and you bring people together. That is your magic.

    ALL
    I just arrived home from New York and saw this latest essay so wanted to express my gratitude to David and to Robert. My family and I were at the 9/11 memorial this morning and I had the honour of reading the names of 10 people who lost their lives that day, including my father Lawrence Davidson. Being a part of the ceremony and seeing my father’s name in the memorial was an incredibly powerful experience, one that has brought final closure to this chapter in my life.

    I love my father and I will miss him always. His wisdom and his kindness shines bright everyday through my daughters, Laurence and Seren.

  • Marc – Thank you for this note. A decade late, I offer my condolences for the loss of your father. I hope that it helped to read his name, and those of the nine others.

  • marc d
    big hug…
    beautiful words…
    ‘if my words did glow….’ I think you know the rest…. :)
    **
    rob c
    just out of curiosity, how many frames did you shoot, to select those 4?
    the series is
    surreal..
    or
    so real……..
    WOW!
    ***

  • Hey Wendy

    I believe Robert said he had ten frames left when he saw the second plane coming in so I guess it’s
    pretty safe to assume the four selects came from a sequence of ten

  • Good link Mr. Vink

  • MARC..

    closure…at last peace…..and remembering all of our discussion, and your work…so sorry i missed you this time

    JOHN VINK

    good link to Nina…and in concert with Mr. Kircher and my sentiments exactly

    WENDY

    Mark T is correct, these four came from a sequence of ten, as Rob stated above

    SIDNEY

    yes, interesting perspective…i can see our old building in your picture…and you have described the location perfectly…but, how did you know? Google maps? thanks

    IMANTS

    oh yes, the War on Terror and the War on Drugs are about equal in their incredible wasted expenditure and hype in all the wrong directions…yes, America loves to “win a war” and of course loses everything else in the process

    JIM

    well we flip flop on “friendships” faster than a speeding bullet…still love the picture of Bob Dole and Jesse Helms and a bunch of other U.S.Congressmen snuggling up to Saddam Hussein at his birthday party in early nineties when we sold him all those weapons of mass destruction…surely the weirdest mistake in history that we attacked Iraq in response to 9-11…not sure we had to attack right away any country..we had the whole world “with us” immediately following the WTC attack….stopping to think “why” we were attacked might have gone a long way to a more reasoned response…well yes, maybe unrealistic, but the Bush response that we were attacked because “THEY hate our freedom, THEY hate our lifestyle” is still the most embarrassing, silly, and dangerous comment of all time and yet is actually “believed” by many.. …to attack back is of course a normal human response to being attacked, but just a bit of long term thinking might have saved a lot of lives …declaring war on Japan after Pearl Harbor seemed a clear after surprise attack choice, united the country, and war over 4 years later (albeit with still the only actual use of a weapon of mass destruction employed to date)…declaring a War on Terror after 9-11 gave our attackers all they wanted and more…10 years and counting….

    sorry, back to normal programming…

    cheers, david

  • I agree with absolutely everything Michael Kircher, Imants and David have written and of course Nina Berman’s post.

  • it really was a sad day. Life has changed for most of people in the world, included the ones like myself living in another continent but feeling to be in the same world. I always loved the “America”, Steinbeck and Least Heat-Moon, jazz music and “the sound of silence”, Edward Hopper and Andy Warhol, the Harley…I was a young boy when JF Kennedy was killed in Dallas and that afternoon of ten years ago (where I live it was afternoon) I felt the same shock, the same questions …how can this be possible ?
    robert

  • It maybe just my stoopid imagination but when I see an image shot with film it looks soooo much nicer than anything I usually see with digital. Colours look fat, thick, saturated but always realistic and natural looking. Of course I’ll forget this feeling by the end of the week when I will have gone back to only seeing digital shots everywhere.

  • KRISTOFF CAPA

    hmm, interesting what people read…and how they sort out what is important to them ..personalize the context of things…

    in my short interview with Rob Clark he says ” I knew I had it”…and you say “this comment is what I hate about photojournalism”…ok,yea hate that if you will…

    yet, two lines down i refer to Rob, the same photojournalist who says what you hate most , offering me his bicycle at a moment in time of mass confusion, death, and what we thought at the time were more attacks coming…

    funny that out of this description of Rob that you would choose that one rather innocent statement of a “photojournalist” (which on your website you claim to be also) to rise above the other clear intent of good deed…

    cheers, david

  • Marc, many hugs to you and your daughters.

    Thinking of my friend who lost his daughter 10 years and one day ago. Not just today, or yesterday, but everytime I see him, being a parent I do not know how he would ever come to terms with the way she died. He never speaks about it, has not for 10 years.

  • Marc…

    Sending my best wishes to you and your daughters.
    Burn is a special place as I’m sure we’ve all noticed. We’ve never met, however everytime I take a walk through a field close by which is full of almond trees I’m reminded of you and your daughters special love for blossom.

  • Marc Davidson,

    We never met, but I do hope that yesterday brought you some sense of closure… At least maybe this will give you a new energy and some peace for your life’ new chapter. I saw you on the podium yesterday, I’m sure your father was proud.
    On my way back to the memorial today, I’ll stop and say hi to Lawrence…
    Cheers, Tanguy.

  • Question for both ROB CLARK and DAH,

    If, as advertised, Rob Clark is joining in today, let me thank both of you in advance for this… another manifestation of DAH’s dedication to educating all of us by providing the opportunity to hang with serious and accomplished working photographers at the highest level.

    Rob, I’m familiar with some of your work through a range of stories you have done for Natgeo going back some years… the first one I remember distinctly with your byline was the Las Salle/Mississippi story, then Australian sheep-shearing, more recently Vesuvius, etc. One of the things that always impressed me is that you are both a very accomplished technical studio photographer using all kinds of staging and lighting setups, and a great location/journalist photographer as well with tremendous range and versatility. David has hammered us with the theme of “authorship” and I’m sure he has discussed that with you at length as well at some point… part of my understanding of “authorship” is the clear definition of a particular look or feel or approach associated with a photographer’s work, the idea that when I see a photograph, I should be able to say “that is a Cartier-Bresson photo” or “that is a Sam Abell photo” or “that is a Bob Black”, etc. When I see your work, aside from a constantly high standard of excellence, it doesn’t seem to fall into a particular style or genre, at least to my eyes… you cover a lot of bases. Do you feel that this has helped or hindered you in your career? And is there a particular sub-set of your body of work that you identify with very strongly and say to yourself, “This is who I really am.”??? (And if you are too modest to expand on this, does DAH have some thoughts re your work?)

    Many thanks!

  • SIDNEY..

    good question..Rob will answer soonest…i will jump in after

  • MARC,
    i’ll join EVERYBODY in this forum…
    Sending my best wishes to you and your daughters.
    And yes , closure at last,peace
    and big hug!

  • hey! I have an idea, it’s very similar to that of autoportraits framed in windows…
    why don’t we collect photos of everyone’s yesterday (september 11th)? something like a sociological research on how people spend the day of the anniversary of 9/11. with one photo per person. because many people, including some authors of comments here, say that the events on this date had an influence over the whole world… and I agree with that, but let’s see if the anniversary had some influence on the individuals…
    for example, yesterday i spent the day fishing with my girlfriend, got red under the sun, ran out of petrol on our way back, went to the nearest petrol station hitchhiking, went back to my car hitchhiking, and when I finally arrived at home my father called me that his car had broken and needs to be pulled. a funny day, if i had stayed at home, i would try to stay far from the annoying media noise…

    what do you think? would it be interesting? i know it’s not a new idea…

  • Hello everyone, to answer Sidney,

    To answer your question, I started out working at newspapers, the Philadelphia Inquirer, Cincinnati Post, ect. and as a newspaper photographer it was always very important to be able to do a lot of different kinds of assignments, so I always strive for excellence in all fields of photography.

    In 1993 I moved to NYC and had the very good fortune to work with a photographer, Gregory Heisler. Greg had an approach that talked about the “appropriate response”, that every job was due it’s own unique approach. I learned more about lighting from Greg in a few months then I had ever know before. So in short I do think that all my work looks and feels like it goes together. But I also think that authorship is not about photographic technique, it is also about subject matter choice. I have done several National Geographic jobs that deal with evolutionary science, “Was Darwin Wrong?”, Alfred Russel Wallace”, Evolution of Feathers, et. All that work does look like it was shot by the same photographer. But to be honest, I doubt that you could tell that all pictures shot by anyone photographer are his. Authorship is more a state of mind or an intention by an artist then direct visual statement that is read the same by everyone.

  • Marc, I remember our meeting well & hope you are doing well and healing, the loss of someone you love is hard enough but loss in this type of “event” seems like it would be harder because what would normally be a very personal event takes on a “news event” stigma. Cheers

  • To Kristoffcapa,

    What I meant by “I had it” is that I had just “watched the world change” and I knew I had shot the event in focus. Period.

  • a civilian-mass audience

    “We cannot change our past. We can not change the fact that people act in a certain way. We can not change the inevitable. The only thing we can do is play on the one string we have, and that is our attitude.”
    Charles R. Swindoll

    and BURNIANS…YOU have the right attitude…!!!

    MARC and ALL of YOU…thank you !

    Yes,thank you,thank you,thank you…

    Your civi
    be back

  • a civilian-mass audience

    and MR.ROBERT CLARK…

    welcome home…

    and home is the place where it feels right…
    cause BURN is home…

    oh,well…I LOVE YOU ALLLLLL

  • Rob,

    Many thanks for your response. When I first read the bio on your website I was surprised to see you had begun as a newspaper photographer because one of the things that I do associate with your work is sophisticated lighting control, both in the studio and out, and I wondered where you picked that up… now I see that you credit Greg Heisler.

    I think it may often be the case that exposure to particular mentors at a critical time in our development has a lot to do with what we end up doing and how we do it, which is partly why David’s efforts on behalf of younger photographers are so important… nothing beats close contact with an older master who is willing to share.

    At the critical stages in my own life the mentors I was lucky to be in contact with were not photographers but two Asian linguists, an anthropologist, later a geography teacher, and then a dropout hippy bum in rural Idaho whose imagination and resourcefulness had created an enviably rich lifestyle almost completely outside the cash economy… it wasn’t till much later in life that I came into contact with some really good photographers and by then my life’s course had been pretty much set.

    If you have also left the Kibbutz, where are you hanging your hat these days?

  • SIDNEY

    please note that many newspaper photographers turned magazine photographers learned serious lighting at the newspaper..Jim Stanfield at NatGeo , one of the premier multi light guys of yesteryear only brought what he and many others knew from the Milwaukee Journal…many newspaper photogs took lighting skills with them to many major magazines and commercial shoots…Rob might not have gotten it at the Inquirer because i do not think Gary Haines, Dir of Photography, stressed it so much (Rob?) but those of us working for Rich Clarkson at the Topeka Capital Journal sure as hell had to learn it..i had four strobes in a Haliburton case in the back of my VW bug all time and knew how to use them…various newspapers stress super lighting abilities, others do not….however, i would definitely tip my lighting hat to both Greg Heisler and Rob Clark who i have no doubt can light more things in more ways than can i…maybe more important, both men are first class human beings…great men both all around…i may have a slightly different spin on authorship than does Rob, but hey that boy can multi task , multi every damn thing and would be the “go to guy” for any director of photography….hmmm, let me see if i can think of assignment for Rob here on Burn…i will think on that one..

    cheers, david

  • http://instagr.am/p/M6Xx2/

    another gorgeous print arrived, for the BURN-ED GARDEN exhibition at October 8th in SA Texas…
    this time from our amazing Burnian Patricia Van De Camp!
    thank u!!!!!!

    Burnians, keep sending, we have a few more spaces in the “Alamo” wall!

  • The Inquirer daily work din’t require much in terms of lighting, but to work for the mazing Sunday Magazine, you would want to learn to light some of the work. I had the great opportunity to work with Nick Kelsh when I was at the Inquirer, and learn howe much I had to learn.

    robert

  • Panos. Sending you a couple in the next two days….Texas friendly :))))

    …..but of course they wont sell……and the whole thing will be a washout…….and no one will turn up………..and all the leaves will turn brown and fall to the earth and be trampled under foot by the senseless boots of an uncaring mass, catatonic in its ….(continues on for 996 pages)

    Kinda digging this pessimist thing. Much more fun than being serious about stuff.

  • thank u John, i know i can rely on you… yes yes Texas friendly..dont wanna get shot down here…remember last time JFK visited?

    and again big thanks to Amsterdam and Patricia VDCamp!

  • ROB

    oh yes Nick Kelsh, one of the great lighting guys…still is

    JOHN…

    you are posting in the wrong place…this is a 9-11 spot..but hell you sound so damned cheerful, who cares?? the show from Texas is going also to Oz in the spring…so if you not sell your prints in one place they might sell in another…

  • I was gonna post the link to Nina Berman’s piece, but John Vink beat me to the punch.

    denislav: I woke up and enjoyed my Sunday morning cup of Joe. I switched on NPR but then, irritated that Wait Wait Don’t Tell Me and A Prairie Home Companion were not being broadcast due to hours of 9-11 scheduled recital of the platitudes, I switched it off. I walked my dogs and practiced guitar, massacring Amazing Grace, Have You Ever Seen the Rain, then plodding through a I VI II V Chord Progression in the key of C with the manual dexterity of a manatee. In the afternoon, I jumped on my scooter and rode over the hill to the Takoma Park festival – a yearly event that coincidentally fell on 9-11. There were bands playing songs conflating movements Labor and Environmental, as an enormous tattooed lesbian signed for the hearing impaired. There was a booth staffed by the Jewish Congregation For Secular Humanism, and in fact, the most Hebrew seen on T shirts and signs west of Petach Tikvah. There were corn dogs and jerk chicken stands, plus every bead shop and patchouli vendor from Takoma Park was represented. There was enough tie dye to create a circle of Hell for chameleons and the poor SOB manning the GOP booth looked lonelier than the Antarctica Maytag Bureau repairman. All in all, not a bad day.

  • DAH its not John’s fault..it’s all mine..i thought we were in Dialogue! my bad..but Regardless, submissions are coming strong and steady…!

  • PANOS…JOHN

    i hope to hell you know i do not care..teasing…and i am sure Rob does not mind either….i am so pleased with what you are doing Panos…once before you remember we had prints all over the loft..i think we sold only 5 prints or so for Burn readers but at a fair price…for us, that was just Mike and i , we never wanted to do that again…managing all those prints..too much responsibility and logistics involved….a lot of packages in and a lot of packages out….but we were trying to squeeze all of it in with too many other things going on…you seem to have a good system and good help all around…can you make a 40 print selection for Sydney?

    cheers, david

  • MONKEYPOINT..

    funny Michelle, as always…just remember that the GOP are human beings too..or, ?? well er, uh well just remember

    JOHN…PANOS

    the 9-11 story is labeled wrong..my own damned fault ..apologies….got in a hurry and slugged it dialogue instead of single or essay or whatever indefinable category it should be..my mistake…but not my worst mistake, just my most recent mistake!!

    Dialogue is still Blowin in the Wind…uh huh…i am taking the afternoon off

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