Jeff Mermelstein, Firemen with Tears, from Ground Zero, September 11, 2001
On the morning of September 11, after the planes had struck the World Trade Center, photographer Jeff Mermelstein dashed downtown to record the apocalyptic scene. “I’m not a war photographer,” he says, “so this wasn’t an easy experience for me.” Shooting as he went, Mermelstein captured the firemen, medical personnel, and ash-covered pedestrians that became iconic images in the days following the attacks. But equally powerful are his many images devoid of human presence: a stray set of Venetian blinds dangling incongruously from an ash-covered tree, and another tree, stripped of its leaves, silhouetted against the smashed remains of Tower Two. Many of the photographs are infused with an absurd, surreal quality, startling in the face of such complete devastation. Mermelstein, best known for his whimsical New York City street photographs, says of the pictures he took on September 11, “Because for years I have been taking documentary pictures of New Yorkers out on the sidewalks, there is a way in which I was prepared. It sounds crazy to say it, but these images are a direct extension of what I’ve been doing all along: capturing life on the streets of this city.”
Browse ICP’s complete September 11 Archive here.