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9/11: Lower Manhattan, 10 years after [Photo essay]

August 26, 2011 |  7:35 pm

This is a corrected version of the original post; see the note below.

911 - 6Photo: The view from the Staten Island Ferry, November 1984

At first I was attracted to the twin towers of the World Trade Center because they were very big and very American. I photographed their construction closely 40 years ago, as the Vietnam War raged, and I regarded them as a wild expression of hubris, arrogance and mistaken priorities.

But as I moved farther away, photographing Manhattan from distant boroughs, these behemoths lost solidity and became mysterious, alluring, their rectangular shapes sometimes barely visible among the spires of the older skyscrapers and the dark, blocky forms of newer ones. I liked to see their simple geometry, a symbol or order of progress, rising above the waterways, junkyards, expressways and neighborhoods that were in the foreground and were the primary interest in my photographs.

I was unaware of the intensity of my connection to the towers until they were destroyed on 9/11. I spent several months gathering together all the images of mine that included the twin towers. I returned to the sites from which I had once photographed the towers to record their absence.

Watching the towers being built, I never imagined I would outlive them. The silvery buildings that once anchored Manhattan and shaped the city skyline are gone. But New York survives, and moves on.

--Photographs and text by Camilo José Vergara

Photographer Camilo José Vergara moved from Chile to New York in 1970. An exhibition of his work, “The Twin Towers and the City,” opens Sept. 3 and runs through Dec. 4 at the Museum of the City of New York.

911 - 2 October 1979

911 - 3September 11, 2001

[For the Record, added 1:50 p.m. August 29: The original post erroneously dated the above photo as September 11, 2011. The photo was taken on September 11, 2001.]

911 - 7September 2010

911 - 1May 2011

911 - 4The view southwest from the Brooklyn Bridge, 1983

911 - 5The view southwest from the Brooklyn Bridge, 2011

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Photos: 'Reflecting Absence': The September 11 Memorial

Archive: In New York, a day of fire and fear | Sept.12, 2001

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