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Books: Brian Rose and the Meaning of NYC's Lost Twin Towers

By David Schonauer   Monday May 16, 2016


Brian Rose knows New York backwards and forwards.

And past and present.

In the past several years, Rose has published two well received books featuring his photographs of New York City then and now. In 2012’s Time and Space on the Lower East Side, 1980 + 2010, he showed the neighborhood during its years as a grungy breeding ground for artists and musicians.

In 2014 he published Metamorphosis: Meatpacking District 1985 + 2013, which featured images of another famous (and famously changed) area.

Now Rose is crowdfunding  the final entry in his Manhattan trilogy with WTC, a book about the World Trade Center’s Twin Towers and what their absence has meant to the city.

“The World Trade Center was still new when I arrived in New York in the summer of 1977,” Rose writes at the book project’s Kickstarter page. “Just three years before, Philippe Petit had made his famous high wire walk between the partially completed Twin Towers. I was a student then, and I made photographs all over lower Manhattan – many that included the Twin Towers.”

In photographing New York neighborhoods with a 4x5 camera, Rose followed in the footsteps of Eugene Atget and Walker Evans, noted Peggy Roalf at Design Arts Daily. The Twin Towers were a constant presence in his work. “In 1980 I photographed the Lower East Side of New York in collaboration with Edward Fausty with the World Trade Center standing off in the distance, an imperious symbol of wealth and power,” Rose writes. “And a few years later, I received a grant to photograph the financial district, and the Twin Towers were a constant presence overshadowing the already lofty spires of Manhattan.”

“The Twin Towers were the perfect backdrop buildings, aloof from the passions below,” Rose writes. “And from afar they often appeared slightly out of focus, to be dematerializing into the sky, an optical effect caused by the steel pinstripes of the towers’ skin.”

He also photographed the area after 9/11, as the city mourned and then rebuilt. “Those who masterminded the destruction of the World Trade Center on 9/11 understood the potency of the Twin Towers as image and symbol. And they knew that striking at that image would unleash forces not easily returned to station,” he writes.


Sean Corcoran, the photo curator of the Museum of the City of New York, has written a forward for the book that puts the meaning of Rose’s photographs of the Twin Towers in context. “Looking through his archive recently, he realized he had created something very profound and personal that he needed to assemble and share,” Corcoran writes. “Serving as a form of personal catharsis, Rose’s words and pictures reflect on the nature of tragedy, remembrance and resilience. He never obtained special access to photograph from particular vantage points, but rather he stood amongst New Yorkers and captured views from the sidewalks they tread every day.”

Visit the Kickstarter page  for the book WTC.

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