Jeff Mermelstein 9.11.01
Few photographers were able to make their way to the World
Trade Center before it was yellow taped and barricaded by the NYPD
and FDNY. One photographer who was quick to the chase was Jeff
Mermelstein, a photographer who has contributed greatly to the
history and genre of street photography, mostly known for his
utmost ability to capture coincidence, irony, and reality.
Featuring Jeff Mermelstein's now-iconic photographs, shot on
9/11, this exhibition also includes pictures that have been
selected specifically for this occasion and which reflect the
photographer's retrospective look back on that tragic day.
Jeff Mermelstein's "9.11.01" is presented to commemorate the
tenth anniversary of
September 11, 2001.
September 6 - October 29, 2011
Tuesday, September 20, 2011, 4:30 - 9 p.m.
Dr. M.T. Geoffrey Yeh Art Gallery
Sun Yat Sen Hall
St. John’s University
8000 Utopia Parkway
Queens, NY 11349
Tue. - Thurs.: 10 a.m. - 5 p.m.
Fri.: 10 a.m. - 3 p.m.
Sat.: 12 a.m. - 5 p.m.
Mon. and Sunday closed
Curated by Prof. Alex Morel
Sponsored by St. John’s College of Liberal Arts and
This exhibition is free of charge and accessible to the
For more information on this exhibit, or for
directions please call (718) 990-7476.
A decade after the 9/11 attacks I am asked to coordinate a
photography exhibition by Jeff Mermelstein. Instead of
writing a comprehensive piece about photography, I decided to
reflect on how the events of that fateful day connects my life with
the lives of countless others.
I never dealt with the post-traumatic stress of having
experienced the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks. The
result of neglecting and not processing my feelings has not allowed
me to fully reconcile and make sense of what happened that day.
I don’t know if what I am feeling is grief, fear, or just
disillusionment in regards to the world that I live in.
I visited the world trade center for the first time in the
summer of 1977 – the same year that George Willig a.k.a. the “human
fly” climbed the south tower of the World Trade Center. We
had missed the boat toLiberty Island, my father insisted upon the
World Trade Center as a venture of equal excitement - it was clear
he didn’t want to spoil our short but wholesome summer vacation in
NYC. The view was breathtaking and I could even see the
Statue of Liberty from above. My visit to the World Trade
Center was by happenstance. I will return to the twin towers
twenty-four years later and I would survive the carnage, by
I have started to retrace my memories as I write about the Trade
Center. I worked in the south tower in 2001 - but I don’t remember
the floor. I have difficulty remembering. The E train would
take me from Queens to downtown Manhattan and by 9:00 a.m. I was
usually ordering breakfast in the Mall at the World Trade Center,
where most days, I would begin my day by chatting with the
middle-aged man that made my breakfast. We discussed trivial
things like the weather, crowded subways, and whether or not I
wanted bacon or cheese on my sandwich.
During my stay at the WTC, I befriended an IT consultant that
worked at the company adjacent to my own. I forgot his name
and the details about his work, but after the tragedy, I often
pondered his whereabouts and whether or not he had survived. I also
find myself frequently reminiscing my relationship with an elderly
Asian man who would clean my office during the afternoons. Our
conversations were short but genuine; I looked forward to our daily
run-ins, and now, I could only hope he was as lucky as I.
I stumbled upon the consultant one month afterwards while I was
eating at a restaurant in Greenwich Village. Actually, I ran
across the street when I saw him entering a bar. I told him I
was happy that he was alive, and he mentioned that everyone from
his office had made it.
The stunning view from my office overlooking the east river is a
fond memory of my days at The World Trade Center. The
expansive landscape stretched endlessly – it was idyllic. I
once told a Haitian coworker that this view symbolized our triumph
over the adversities we experienced as recent immigrants. Perhaps,
it is preferable not to think too much about those days leading to
the tragedy – hopefully it will just fade away. In spite of
the painful memories I consider myself incredibly fortunate to be
alive. The company server was sent to our Queens Plaza
office. I was transferred there on Friday, September 7,
I find myself transported back to September 11, 2001 through
Jeff Mermelstein's work. The exhibition has given me an
opportunity for pause for thought. Jeff Mermelstein’s 9.11.01
series of photographs, while shocking and disturbing for most of
us, will serve as grounds to encourage a dialogue on how we might
individually and collectively participate in conflict resolution.
It is our hope that the exhibition will allow the viewer to
explore possible paths to make meaning of conflict, and how to
negotiate a resolution within the diversity of sensitivities and
cultures throughout the world.