Cortlandstreet, NYC, 2007
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 (or how does one say?) … 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 winterevenings 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 water’s surface. Sunlight radiating as a projector’s 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 thought of a story by Truman Capote from the book “Music for Chameleons”. In the story “A days work” from the “Conversational portraits” he accompanied his cleaning lady on her quest through Manhattan. She had this vast amount of keys on her chain to get in all these apartments. She told me of the people living there; about the worries she had for those who seemed to neglect themselves as she found such amounts of empty bottles. She told of rich people and their tacky interiors. On the road she rolled a strong joint and soon the buildings started moving.
They came to the apartment of a young woman with as many as a thousand books. The lady told me she looked really healthy not really a bookworm and has many boyfriends. Capote copies the two poems that were still in her typewriter. They move to another apartment. Capote offers to take a cab. But this offer is denied. She wants to pay a visit to a narrow church in a side street to light a candle and say a few prayers.
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: “We’ll see you around! You follow our laws now, there is no escape. We are in command here.”
And now, 17 years later it’s as 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