Archives About Staff BagNews is dedicated to visual politics, media literacy and the analysis of news images.
September 12, 2009


Platt 9:11:09.jpg

No ground zero, no mourners, no politicians, no flowers. It’s an unorthodox offering from Getty photographer Spencer Platt marking the 9/11 anniversary. And yet, I find it quite telling.

In the days and weeks after 9/11, an oft-repeated question had to do with how long, and even whether “the events” might cross from wound to scar. Maybe it’s the one more year. Maybe it’s the fact that, with the passing of the Bush/Cheney/Rove regime, the attacks have been freed from political bondage.

Whatever it is, yesterday did feel to me like something had shifted.

Studying the picture, there’s the sense of the policeman, a block from Ground Zero, as a ghost “first responder” finally removing the caution tape. There is the feeling, in the bustle, that people moved on –but, in the person of the guy carrying the white bag, looking in the direction of where the towers stood, never having forgotten. And then, there’s the red-and-white umbrella, not just reminding us what the attacks did for the mileage of the American flag, but also perfectly recollecting in this commercial space that patriotic admonition: “go shopping.”

(image: Spencer Platt/Getty Images. caption: A New York City Police Officer controls traffic on Broadway a block from Ground Zero on the on the eighth anniversary of the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks on September 11, 2009 in New York, New York. Hundreds of people gathered in pouring rain and wind to commemorate the times when hijacked planes hit the Trade Center’s two main towers killing 2,993 people)

  • alabama

    A very rich image–because ambiguous. The cop could be an angel of mercy, or Death Itself, or both of these at once… as well as being what he really and truly is–a person at work in the rain (cold, wet, exhausted).

  • DennisQ

    The city is returning to its traditions. Young people came to New York to launch big-time careers, but in the past two years there’s been a lot of cutbacks. With the exodus back to the South and the Midwest, there’s even talk that Manhattan apartments are becoming affordable.
    New York was due for a snapback even before September 11th. Giuliani made New York so squeaky clean and corporation-friendly that the place wasn’t recognizable to people who grew up there. Rudy was the city’s most unpopular man on September 10, 2001 because he’d turned New York over to outsiders from the provinces.
    Even so, Rudy wasn’t the Mayor who had protesters arrested and detained for the duration of the Republican National Convention. Bloomberg did that. Bloomie’s nowhere near as popular as he thinks he is, even if many other New Yorkers agree that jail is a good place for protesters to be.
    I think New Yorkers are tired of all the social experiments, the corporate takeovers, and the political beatdowns. Maybe we’ll see the return of the Surly New Yorker whom nobody likes, versus the unfortunate victims everybody pitied. At the height of the War on Terror, Bush was willing to fight to the death of the last New Yorker. New Yorkers weren’t thrilled with the idea.

  • alabama

    Do you find that the people in the picture look surly? To me, they seem to be coping with the weather…. And, where sociology is concerned, let’s not forget that this photo was taken in one of Manhattan’s most prosperous residential neighborhoods…

  • Karen H.

    Finally. It wasn’t just the day and the event which were held hostage. Are we being visually admonished or laid to rest? I hope it’s the latter. It’s never been a forgiving ghost.

  • Tena

    This photograph can be read as just America going about its business, finally. Nothing “went back to normal” despite Bush admonishing us so clumsily to act normals and nothing was normal again as long as the Bush Administration was in charge. To me, that alway meant that Al Qaeda met its objective. We were terrified – that was the point. This picture does read in such a way that one could see in it a return to “normal” being watched by the spirit of that day in the figure of the policeman. It also suggests that now we are always being watched by a government presence of some sort – so it can also read as the opposite of America just going about its business.
    If we really can get back to “normal” again, then we and the rest of the world will understand that we ultimately triumphed over this unparalleled tragedy. We haven’t gone back there yet. There’s still a huge hole in the ground where the WTC stood, we’re still cringing if not outright panicking when something reminds us of that day, like the coastguard exercise yesterday. The Bush-Cheney fear mongering for 8 years is finally no more. But the effects are sure still being felt.

  • Cary Conover

    I like the muted, gray-toned lettering on the back of the new NYPD raincoats (or maybe this one’s just faded). But I have to correct your orientation in describing this photo. We’re facing uptown in this shot, which was taken on Broadway around John Street. So the WTC site would be to our left, and most of the people here are walking away from it.

  • Michael Shaw (The BAG)

    Cary, thanks for the orientation.

  • nordmend

    visually, and i suppose power-wise, it’s all centered on the gun, what with the caution tape and the almost-rule-of-thirds sky break leading into it; the only item of the policeman’s kit that’s outside his raincoat, ready to use.
    toned down police branding, and toned down gun presentation – tho nothing much has changed about either. just like america, eh?

  • VT

    …Cary’s orientation then makes the flag-stripe-as-rain-protection symbolism even more interesting since it’s the only one headed toward the ongoing hole in the ground.

  • Wordsmith

    Didn’t notice the gun until you pointed it out…

Refresh Archives

Random Notes