An Elegy to the Twin Towers

September 07, 2011 at 12:16 pm

Camilo Jose Vergara, a MacArthur Award-winning photographer, began photographing the World Trade Center shortly after its completion in the early 1970s. He continued to focus his lens on the Twin Towers from all angles over the following four decades.

Vergara’s images of the towers, taken from all five boroughs and New Jersey, offer a bittersweet reminder of the Towers’ former ubiquity within the city’s landscape.

Click below to see photographs of the New York City skyline with and without the Twin Towers. Vergara took these images from various locations over the course of four decades:

Photos courtesy of Camilo Jose Vergara/Museum of the City of New York.

The photos he took after 9/11 illuminate the stark contrast to the skyline, forcing the viewer to confront the meaning of the Towers’ absence. His photos are on display at the Museum of the City of New York between Sept. 3 through Dec. 4 in an exhibition called, “The Twin Towers and the City: Photographs by Camilo Jose Vergara.”

In many ways, the towers seemed to mean more to people once they were gone than when they were standing. It’s easy now to forget an era when people debated the buildings’ aesthetic merits, often with disgust.

Anthony Robins is a historian specializing in New York City architecture. In 1987 he wrote a book on the World Trade Center, which he is currently updating. Photograph by Mark Bennington.

But Anthony Robins,  a historian who held positions at the New York City’s Landmarks Preservation Commission and specializes in New York City architecture and history, remembers.

In 1987, he published the book “The World Trade Center,” which focused on the planning and architectural history of the Center, and the controversy that once surrounded it. He lectures and writes often on the topic, even now that the towers are gone.

Robins sat down with MetroFocus to discuss the story of the World Trade Center, its altered meaning and evolving legacy.

LISTEN TO AUDIO INTERVIEW:

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In an interview with  MetroFocus Web Editor John Farley, historian Anthony Robins discusses the history and legacy of the World Trade Center. This interview has been edited and condensed.

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