20 Towers, 2007
20 Towers, the Bookwood Wide; a history
Aiming a camera up a building or a tree could lead to disappointment. The photographic perspective will make lines bend.
There's no problem in that but the special sensation as we register is gone. Looking up to a church, cathedral or apartment building impresses with enormity in size and volume as these columns rise out above us and seemingly fall all over us.
To maintain this spatial thrill in the image there is but one solution: the technical camera. I live in the happy circumstance of having an instrument maker as a brother. Someone who at the glance of a simple drawing immediately understands
what it was that I want. In 1989 when I was invited to come to New York my brother had just finished work on the Bookwood Wide. I put it in my bag. There was no time to try it out. The area around Wallstreet had been a vivid, strong memory since an earlier visit to the city of New York. It' s amazing to see this old fashioned city made of skyscrapers full of detail. And yet, in our conception it represents a very modern image. It seemed worth while to have a closer look there.
Next to this there was the phenomenon of the Twin Towers appearing, The World Trade Centre. I call it an appearance because I did not quite understand. Picture yourself to be the architect. He has an assignment to make a large office building. What does he do? He suggests to build a really large rectangular shape but, the idea doesn' t seem to work and well, why not make two similar shapes opposite to each other. Sheer beauty or ugliness; disgust or admiration? I could not figure it out. That first time in New York it occurred to me. In the early darkness of the winter evenings as we drove alongside Manhattan I saw them. It almost seemed as if it was a mistake. Time and time again I would see the towers, thinking to myself how bold and almost rude they were trying to overshadow the city. As I spoke many New Yorkers I got the impression that they too thought alike.
In 1989 I went back to New York packed with the right camera this time. Why is it, that one speaks so easily of the special character of the Dutch Light and no one hardly ever speaks of the light I saw in New York? I call it the Atlantic light because, as I suspect the Atlantic Ocean has everything to do with it. A light that comes in unfiltered, possibly reflected on the waters' surface. Sunlight radiating as a projectors beam producing almost halo-like lights. This light might well connect with the American character.
Between the blocks we find ourselves in canyons where skyscrapers mix with their shadows. The light creates holes and covers parts in darkness and all of this changes by the hour so the spotlight is constantly showing us different details. As backdrops buildings and shadows shifted over one and other. For a week I took the early train from Brooklyn into Manhattan. On arrival the light seemed to propel me from street to street seeking one skyscraper after another. There had to be people living there I turned a corner and there they were again, the Twin Towers, radiating in the morning light. Overlooking everything and sometimes even blocking the whole view in a street as if there was no room for anything else. It seemed as if the Towers were saying: Well see you around! You follow our laws now, there is no escape. We are in command here. And now, 17 years later it is as if I miss them in the New York images. I catch myself trying to find them again on TV, in the newspapers, in photos and in movies.
Henze Boekhout Haarlem - NL, augustus 2007
link folder 20 towers