It was almost fifteen years ago to the day. I was still an Architecture student at Pratt Institute in Brooklyn. In the Fall of 1999 I was taking an elective course in Black and White photography. I was shooting with a Pentax ZX-10 and Kodak Tri-X 400 film. It was my first forte in making images with any kind of SLR and it’s about the same time I fell in love with the medium. Back then, I almost never shot people that weren’t my friends. I still didn’t have the nerve or a developed appreciation for the human physiognomy. Instead I was more interested in the gritty New York landscape I grew up in. On an overcast September afternoon I found myself exploring East Williamsburg/Bushwick in search of some new decrepit subject matter. Back then, the waterfront wasn’t lined with expensive condos and then neighborhood was still very rugged and still very much blue collar, so it was like an oasis for a young art student (I know, I know. Cliche). I was driving north on Broadway under the elevated J/M/Z subway line when I glanced to my left and spotted something pretty cool. While looking West down the Division Avenue intersection, the Twin Towers were clearly visible in the distance, perfectly perched in the middle of the street. It was as if Division Ave was specifically built for that view. Of course that’s not true since Division Ave dates back to the mid 1800’s, created as a border between the city of Brooklyn and the Village of Williamsburg, and the World Trade Center was completed in the early 1970’s.
Here are the original photos compared with the same perspective today. Some things have changed, some things have stayed the same. But the most notable difference today is the lack of that same empowering vista, framed so perfectly by the old buildings. The new Freedom tower is still visible, albeit not as much, obscured by trees in the foreground. It’s also built just slightly North of the original Twin Tower footprints, which places it asymmetrically, and rather disappointingly to the right of the avenue in the distance. Mouse-Over the two photos just below for a direct comparison.