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Published: August 24, 2016
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Commemorating 9/11 in Photography

New Exhibition Documents World Trade Center Site 1970-Present

WASHINGTON, D.C.—To mark the 15th anniversary of the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001, the National Building Museum will present Commemorating 9/11: Photographs by Camilo José Vergara, September 3-November 27, 2016. The exhibition, displayed within the arcade of the Museum's historic Great Hall, will feature photographic time sequences chronicling the development of lower Manhattan and Brooklyn, New York. The earliest images, dating to 1970, show the twin towers of the World Trade Center under construction; the most recent photographs were taken in July, 2016.

WTC Time Sequence
Time sequence of view southwest from the Manhattan Bridge, Brooklyn, New York. 1) November 1979; 2) September 11, 2001; 3) September 12, 2010. © Camilo José Vergara

“No other photographer has been as devoted to documenting this site and its relationship to the greater New York City area as Camilo José Vergara,” said Chase W. Rynd, the Museum's executive director. “This exhibition is a way for us to honor those who lost their lives, those who responded and volunteered in the aftermath, and those who have labored to never forget—and rebuild—after the attacks of September 11, 2001.”

The 34 images include views from numerous Brooklyn neighborhoods, Manhattan, and New Jersey. As Vergara notes, “The city moves on as the new World Trade Center Complex of super tall, glassy buildings reclaims the limelight. In the meantime, I continue to document the neighborhoods of New York and New Jersey and, with them, the evolving cityscape. On September 11, you’ll find me in proximity to lower Manhattan to capture the Tribute of Light, the annual commemoration of the tragic events of 2001. On the Fourth of July, I photograph the fireworks as they burst behind this skyline. Somehow, the towers still rise from the water for me.” 

Vergara, a native of Chile, is recognized as one of the nation's foremost documentarians of the urban landscape. His dedicated, unwavering approach to systematically photographing some of America's most impoverished neighborhoods earned him a National Humanities Medal in 2012, awarded by President Barack Obama. Among others, Vergara's work has been supported by the National Endowment for the Arts, the Getty Research Institute, and the MacArthur Foundation. He was named a MacArthur Fellow in 2002.

This exhibition is the third in a series presented at the National Building Museum. Immediately after the 2001 attacks, the Museum collaborated with Vergara on Twin Towers Remembered, an exhibition and catalogue (co-published with Princeton Architectural Press), that shared his mesmerizing images of the World Trade Center site with the public. A decade later, the Museum presented an abridged version online.

The Museum's most recent project with Vergara was the exhibition Detroit Is No Dry Bones (September, 2012 through February, 2013). That collaboration formed the basis of his forthcoming book, Detroit Is No Dry Bones: The Eternal City of the Industrial Age, which will be published this fall by University of Michigan Press.

Camilo José Vergara’s time sequence images of the transformation of the World Trade Center site are being presented simultaneously in an exhibition at the National Building Museum, online at the Library of Congress, and as a slideshow at the New York Historical Society. On November 1, Vergara will present a talk about the book at the Library of Congress, where his photographic archive is housed.

MEDIA CONTACT: For more information contact Brett Rodgers at 202.272.2448, ext. 3109, brodgers@nbm.org.

The National Building Museum is America’s leading cultural institution dedicated to advancing the quality of the built environment by educating people about its impact on their lives. Through its exhibitions, educational programs, online content, and publications, the Museum has become a vital forum for the exchange of ideas and information about the world we build for ourselves. Public inquiries: 202.272.2448 or visit www.nbm.org. Connect with us on Twitter: @BuildingMuseum and Facebook.

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