April 26, 2010

Skyline, 1995

In the Spring of 1995 I was commissioned by the New York Times Magazine to do this picture. I had already done two others in this series, and by now these pictures were referred to as “the line pictures.” Earlier, I had done Hemline and Airline, and now I was asked to shoot Skyline. The only directive was to have the New York skyline in the picture.

We had found a barge that was large enough to put the crew in the middle of the Hudson River. The day of the shoot, it was raining. I remember the Art Director asking me if we should cancel and reshoot another day. I also remember feeling that shooting that day was fine, and that the rain, rather than a deterrent, was an asset. I have always liked rain. It adds an atmosphere that I am attracted to. It makes things enigmatic, dimensional, and unresolved.

It took some hours to get the barge in place, and by then it was raining quite hard. We got everyone dressed quickly, positioned the barge, and shot the picture very quickly. I remember that the barge would drift slowly, and I found myself waiting for just the right moment, when the man’s hat fell between the Twin Towers. I took a few frames and then the job was done.

As I have mentioned before, one never knows which pictures will strike gold. This picture, even before 9-11, was extremely popular, and since then has become almost an icon. The edition is almost all sold out, with only one print remaining.

Since 9-11, the picture has been purchased by people all over the world, but by no one in New York City. I used to think this strange, but I realize the events of 9-11 are still too close for those who were there. A photograph always has a history. It denotes a time and a place, and is able to halt life, if only for a second. Of all the pictures I have ever taken, this picture is marked in time forever. It is a timeline, as well as a skyline.

Comments

8 Comments »

  1. Rodney,

    I lived in Manhattan on 9/11. For me the event isn’t ‘still too close’ so much as it is nothing I’d ever want romantic or whimsical memorabilia of. Too close, perhaps, but not in reference to time. I suppose people all over the world buy this image the way I buy books by Nachtwey and Salgado. It feels quite uncomfortable being on this side of the lens for a change – I did not find 9/11 to be fascinating or entertaining.

    Love the blog, thanks for continuing to share your insight.

    Comment by Ken — April 26, 2010 @ 11:49 am

  2. [...] In the Spring of 1995 I was commissioned by the New York Times Magazine to do this picture. I had already done two others in this series, and by now these pictures were referred to as “the line pictures.” Earlier, I had done Hemline and Airline, and now I was asked to shoot Skyline. The only directive was to have the New York skyline in the picture. read more [...]

    Pingback by ABSOLUTMATERIALIST » Skyline, 1995 — April 26, 2010 @ 2:59 pm

  3. I love hearing the story behind the image. Fascinating! I can’t imagine this image without umbrellas.

    9/11 was a “sitting-on-the-couch-feeding-my-newborn” day. One published image that was taken in the media circus was of a crying woman holding her fiancee’s picture. That picture grabbed my heart like a vice and I’ll never forget it. It’s amazing how images can make you feel.

    This one of yours does that to me in a different way…..before the fear set in for all of us. The symmetry in your imagery makes me feel calm.
    My best-
    Lara

    Comment by Lara Blair — April 27, 2010 @ 9:50 pm

  4. Iev altrady often seen this picture but never recognized that models are placed on a barge. Thank you for writing about such interesting details.

    Comment by Oleksandr Hnatenko — April 28, 2010 @ 1:29 pm

  5. powerful story and image; on this side of 9/11, it’s as if the umbrella people are watching for the planes to take down the towers, and the rain is a lament for all those who have passed.

    Comment by Nate Henderson — May 29, 2010 @ 11:11 am

  6. [...] picture above was commissioned to photographer Rodney Smith in 1995. It’s the fashionable way to remember it. Below, the impressive Man with the 9/11 [...]

    Pingback by 6 Unusual Ways To Remember 9/11 — StyleFrizz — September 11, 2012 @ 8:59 am

  7. [...] picture above was commissioned to photographer Rodney Smith in 1995. It’s the fashionable way to remember it. Below, the impressive Man with the 9/11 [...]

    Pingback by Fashionable Tide » 6 Unusual Ways To Remember 9/11 — September 11, 2012 @ 6:12 pm

  8. I was wondering if you could tell me what you think the meaning or message of this photograph is? I am doing a project on this particular piece. It really interests me. You take wonderful photos!!!

    Comment by Michelle — November 20, 2012 @ 10:57 am

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