NPR logo Photos Give A Twin Towers Timeline

Reflecting On Sept. 11, 2001

Photos Give A Twin Towers Timeline

For many people, the most indelible image of the twin towers will always be the New York City skyline as the buildings smoldered and crumbled on Sept. 11, 2001.

Photographer Camilo Jose Vergara, on the other hand, doesn't believe in iconic images. He's been photographing the New York City skyline for four decades and for him, the most indelible image of the twin towers is one of its construction in 1977. And one of a boy looking out at the skyline from a ferry in 1985. And one of the skyline with the towers clearly missing — from this year.

View of lower Manhattan from the Manhattan bridge in 1979 and again, twice, in Sept. 2001, before and after the twin towers fell. Camilo Jose Vergara hide caption

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Camilo Jose Vergara

"It's a living story," Vergara says on the phone; he virtually never photographs something just once. If he takes a picture of a skyline, he'll go back and photograph that same skyline year after year after year, almost by compulsion. He refers to himself as an "archivist of decline."

For an exhibition, currently on display at Museum of the City of New York, Vergara dug through his archives — which, as you can imagine, are insanely huge — for visual references of the twin towers, which are bountiful.

The message of this twin towers timeline is that nothing lasts; yet one image in particular — the scene of a wedding at the foot of the Brooklyn Bridge, with the twin towers obviously missing — is a reminder that life goes on.

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