Issue 2.1 Homepage

Article Contents
·Giuliani Said Not To
·The Temporality of the Snapshot
·The Time of Mourning
·Flat Death
·Touching Traces
·The Aesthetics of Trauma and the Politics of Grief
·April 2003
·Works Cited

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Marianne Hirsch, "I Took Pictures: September 2001 and Beyond" (page 6 of 8)


As I took photos at the ground zero site, I began to realize that, after all, it is the absence of the towers that I have been trying to show, and that absence, by nature, is not easily visualized. But although they have physically disappeared, the towers are actually still present all over the city: framed black and white photographs, postcards, t-shirts and key-chains featuring the trade towers are available on every street corner. In drawings, poems, and reconstructions people are evoking presence where there is only absence. Photography as a medium can well confront the shocking absence with fantasmatic presence. The photographs of the towers are touched by the towers and looking at them enables viewers to be touched by that touch. There is an intimacy of looking at images that makes that touch gentle, domestic - the pictures are, after all, miniaturized versions of enormous buildings that could only be fully seen from a great distance.

Images printed unto paper by way of light are ghosts that haunt. This is as true for the pictures on the posters of the missing, as it is for the pictures of the towers themselves. Art Spiegelman understood this from the first week when he created the black on black New Yorker cover. In the discussions about the memorialization of the event, focusing on whether the towers should or should not be rebuilt, two artists came up with the same idea: temporarily create life-size neon projections of the towers' outline so that they would not have disappeared. Many say that they still see their outlines, that they are haunted by them. Rick Burns, director of a documentary on new York City broadcast on PBS, called them "our phantom limb." "You feel it but it's not there; you look to where you feel it should be." (New York Times 24 Oct. 2001, p.1) Photographs can convey this haunting.

S&F Online - Issue 2.1, Public Sentiments - Ann Cvetkovich and Ann Pellegrini, Guest Editors - ©2003.