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Watching the World Change

I’m about halfway through David Friend’s new book about the photography of 9/11 called “Watching the World Change“. It’s a comprehensive piece of work that covers every kind of conceivable photographic viewpoint of what happened on the streets of New York that day; amateur hobbyists photographing on their way to work, the world’s best photojournalists rushing to the scene, and people ducking into drugstores to buy disposable point-and-shoots (the results of one such purchase made the book’s cover).

The book charts a divide in photography. 2001 was the brink of digital, and while most of the published photos from that day were on film, the event itself contributed to digital’s swift takeover of photojournalism. When coupled with these videos (on The Digital Journalist) of photojournalists recounting their efforts, and this piece at Magnum In Motion, the picture of what happened that day has a new fullness, which for me, has been worthwhile.

The book has its own site/blog here. The book’s well footnoted, with a generous index, but I wish that a book about photographs had the rights to publish all of the work it describes. Some photos are included, most are not. Google searches for some of the photographers mentioned yield zip. Too bad the website doesn’t step-up to fill-in that gap.

Update: One of the most surreal passages in the book is on page 158.

“(In 2005, in a case of art-imitates-life, filmmaker Olver Stone would hire Nachtwey to come to Los Angeles to shoot photos on the set of his feature World Trade Center. On a Hollywood soundstage, Stone had fabricated a scene of sprawling devastation. And who better than Nachtwey to bring a wealth of firsthand experience to the site and to lend credibility to the endeavor? Stone, Nachtwey says, ‘re-created Ground Zero above ground and below ground, about fifty feet high and two hundred feet around, with twisted steel and concrete.’ By fashioning a faux September 12, just for the camera, the director could take his characters and his audience ‘to places we’ve never seen before,’ Nachtwey claims–inside man-made cavers of death. In this way, moviegoers could approximate the experience of the horror of those rare individuals, pulled from the rubble, who had the courage to go on, and could sense the heroism of those who, despite the odds, had come to save them.)”

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