Photographers' Blog

An office with a view

By Lucas Jackson

Everyone knows that moving into an office with a view is a sure sign of status at your job. If it’s a corner office with a view in two different directions you have managed to place yourself within the upper rungs of the corporate ladder. If your office has a 360 degree view of the financial capital of the world, New York City, you must be a legend. Or, you could be an ironworker putting together the iron skeleton of the new One World Trade in downtown Manhattan.

One World Trade, previously known as the Freedom Tower, has in the last several years quietly grown taller and taller. Today it stands a few stories below being the tallest building in New York City. It is still rising too, at a rather rapid rate and after visiting the top floor I met first hand the group of dedicated ironworkers who are piecing it together, one bolt at a time.

Their commute to work is as vertical as ours is horizontal. Because the interior of the building is not yet finished, the quickest way to get to their workplace is via several different elevator systems and a couple of steel ladders. One external freight elevator (running express for the beginning of the daily shift and at lunch hours) took us to the 39th floor where one must catch another elevator that took us to within a couple stories of the top of the building. In this case it took us to roughly the 90th floor. Here we left the elevators behind and took two open steel ladders to the 92nd and 93rd floors where the steel skeleton of this building is being installed whenever the weather allows. One of these ladders is two stories tall and a little bit wobbly, it was climbing this ladder that I realized I am glad that I’m not afraid of heights.

On this clear Friday the weather on the ground was warm with a light breeze; up almost 1000 feet above the ground that small breeze was a little more intense and the temperature dropped accordingly. However, the view was incredible. At this height the building had risen far above any of its neighbors that either withstood or have risen since September 11, 2001. Unfortunately for the view, but for the very necessary reason of safety, there is plastic mesh surrounding these open floors to keep both workers and their equipment from falling off the side to cause chaos below. Even with this mesh the sense of height above the city is incredible and the view that you can see through the mesh is amazing.

Inside this mesh a few dozen iron workers work busily to connect the beams that make up the massive iron infrastructure of the building together. Two cranes, whose massive bases take up almost the entire interior of the building, work in unison to lift the massive steel beams into place and to help make the minute adjustments to these beams that will allow the bolts that hold them together to be placed. The workers seem to have the balance of gymnasts as they move back and forth on the beams to both guide the beams that hang from the cable of the crane and then to come and attach them to the existing framework with large bolts and pointed wrenches. Safety is an obvious necessity at this height and when working with such heavy materials. Every worker in the air seems to have a partner below who is constantly watching to make sure that things look okay and everyone is strapped up, in some way or another, to the beams they sit, walk or stand upon.

Seen on the fashion scene

By Allison Joyce

Held twice yearly in February and September, New York Fashion Week features designers from all over the world, displaying their creations on the runways. A small venue of tents pops up in Lincoln Center to house the crowd of celebrities, designers and models who descend upon the city. The event also draws its own share of notable and outrageous personalities, fashionistas, and those who come just to be seen on the scene.

I am now into my fourth year of covering the event and have started to recognize a group of colorful, sassy characters who come to Fashion Week each year. Some are former models, some are bloggers, and others seem to be famous just for their outlandish outfits or feline sidekicks. A few of them stand out because they are decked out in the same colorful suits, ostentatious hair styles and eye catching accessories year after year, appearing in the lobby or on the pavilion like clockwork. Most of them seem to be there for the same reasons, to network and be part of the scene.

While most New Yorkers are sitting at their desks or following their daily routines on a Monday morning, ten blocks away, an entirely different scene is unfolding. Backstage, there is a flurry of hairspray, lipstick, clothes, shoes and champagne. On the runway, Anna Wintour is perched on her front row seat next to Nicki Minaj, watching the show to the boom of house music. Meanwhile, out front in the lobby, Janet Finkel is walking her cat, Natasha, while Cognac Wellerlane struts by, coiffed in her beehive.

9/11: Ten years later

On September 11, 2001, four hijacked planes were used to carry out attacks on the United States. Two planes hit New York City’s World Trade Center, a third plunged into the Pentagon, and the fourth crashed near Shanksville, Pennsylvania, after an attempt was made by passengers to regain control. In total 2,992 people were killed.

Shannon Stapleton, who took one of the defining images of the attacks, recounts covering New York city over ten years in a Full Focus Photographer Notebook entry

Jason Reed and Larry Downing document one mother’s story of loss in Five years with Justin

Inside the NYPD’s counter terrorism unit

When our photo staff began to plan for the tenth anniversary of the September 11 attacks, it was difficult to know where coverage should begin. The first story that came to mind is how Ground Zero has changed. It has been remarkable to watch the buildings being constructed. Not only have we seen them rise above ground level, but slowly surpass the height of every other building in lower Manhattan. Colleagues of mine have done a wonderful job of documenting the evolution of the site and the reactions of those around it, but while that might be the most obvious story to tell, it was not the most profound change that I feel has taken place in New York since the attacks. For me, the most significant modification is that security has become omnipresent in the city.

Security has emerged as a fact of life here. When we fly we have to take off our shoes and throw away our water bottles. Every commercial building in New York has a security team and identification is required to get to work. The speakers in the subway system continually remind us that “if you see something, say something” and photographing a building that lies in full view of the public is considered a suspicious activity. While this all might seem like an Orwellian society in which “Big Brother” is constantly looking down upon us, it is necessary to remember that New York has been the target of two major successful attacks, one foiled attack, and unknown numbers of prevented attacks since the first World Trade Center bombing in 1993.

The most visual way to show this shift in New York’s security is to document the New York Police Department’s (NYPD) counter terrorism units. According to their website, the Counter Terrorism Bureau of the NYPD was created by Police Commissioner Ray Kelly in 2002 as a direct response to the realization that the city could not rely solely on the federal government for the safety of it’s citizens. The department’s counter terrorism units are the result of the NYPD’s evolution from being a purely domestic reactionary police force to their current manifestation as the primary preventative law enforcement agency for New York City. While the average New Yorker has seen a gradual change in how the department operates since September 11, what is different may not be readily apparent. This photo essay is an attempt to show the many tasks that this section of the NYPD performs in their effort to safeguard the city.

A Holga view of 9/11

By Shannon Stapleton

The 10th anniversary of the attacks on the World Trade Center has been causing me some anxiety for some time now.

We were told that magazines, newspapers and all other outlets for pictures regarding the 9/11 attacks would need to be filed and completed by mid-summer for deadlines. For a long time I didn’t cherish the thought of covering another anniversary let alone trying to find new ways to illustrate something that for some time I have been trying to avoid. Having been there first hand on that dark day in history I truly dislike having to go down there at all and usually do my best to avoid World Trade Center site area.

It brings back bad memories and I am not a fan of how it has become such a tourist stop when they visit New York. I truly understand the significance of the day and why people would want to come but looking up at the sky or at a fence covering a big hole in the ground is something I will never understand. As jaded as that may sound I will say that once all the politics, union negotiations and property disputes were settled, they have, and continue with time running out, made significant progress for the Ground Zero memorial. Ten years to figure that out seems to me like a long time but who am I.

A New York love story

A couple kiss while waiting for the subway in New York May 11, 2010. REUTERS/Lucas Jackson

New York is consistently touted as a cold, aggressive, and hectic city with no personal connections possible. A populace of hyper-efficient and emotionally starved citizens, or at least that’s what I had heard before I moved here.

I arrived in New York almost 4 years ago and immediately found these preconceptions to be mostly untrue, with an exception of the hyper-efficiency. The city forces you to interact, albeit most often very briefly, with thousands of fellow New Yorkers on a daily basis – on the trains, sidewalks, buses, and bike paths that keep the city humming with activity year-round. I have used public transportation ever since arriving in New York to work as a staff photographer for Reuters. This most often means taking the infamous New York City subway.

A couple embraces as a subway train arrives in the station in New York May 24, 2010. REUTERS/Lucas Jackson

This subterranean method of transportation probably forces the most intimacy with total strangers of any in modern society. A morning rush hour commute has you standing fully pressed up against half a dozen people. Hundreds of commuters per subway car struggle not to notice each other and keep their ‘game face’ of indifference and impatience on. It is in this most public of settings that I notice some people feeling no shame or embarrassment in kissing, snuggling, holding hands, fighting, or hugging in full view of dozens of strangers. This unabashed intimacy with a loved one within the public setting of a subway car seemed crazy. But it immediately struck me as something interesting to photograph.

Libya’s Gaddafi takes center frame

The first day of the UN General Assembly is one of those days every year that you both look forward to and dread. With so many world leaders coming to New York to give a speech you know there will be always be news associated with the GA. The problem is very little changes at the UN from year to year and the pictures, of which thousands are shot every day, all tend to look very much the same.

This year we were all looking forward to the first address to the GA by Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi and as expected he delivered a photo-rich speech for the photographers in attendance. It was one of those speeches that was hard not to get a good photo from no matter where in the hall you were shooting.

We placed three photographers in the assembly hall in our normal left-center-right positions. Everyone had photos of him waving his arms around, gesturing, holding up a book, throwing a book and waving his speech in the air.

Sept. 11 – This year it seemed different

Sept 11

Having covered the events of 9/11 and 6 of the last 7 memorials, this year was very different. In the past I had a very hard time covering these memorials emotionally. It was tough seeing these people grieving the loss of loved ones and having, not even through six degrees of separation, known anyone that passed away hard to grasp. But year after year we have gone down to the site to mark the anniversary of one of the worst attacks on American soil in history.

Sept 11 2

This year it seemed different. For me, it seemed not as emotional as the years past. With less exceptions people seemed to be getting on with their lives to a certain extent. I also noticed how the kids of the victims are getting older – not nearly as many babies and younger children. Seven years have passed and the children are growing older. I also think that the presidential candidates visiting the site took some of the focus away from the families’ and loved ones’ day of mourning. It became a separate story to cover other than the anniversary.


A visual journey

On the bus

With the hopes of seeing a slice of Americana and a desire to get back to the Big Easy, I thought what better way to get to see the country than take a Greyhound bus. My trip, which originated at Port Authority in New York City and was to end in New Orleans, covered 1,400 miles, 15 scheduled stops and 4 bus changes.
As hoped I met some really interesting characters along the way : A man who claims to have staged a pre-meditated suicide in hopes of claiming a new identity, a pastor who has fathered 13 children, a kid who hiked the whole Appalachian trail by himself, a marine who claimed to have not been home for 6 years and was returning to New Orleans via Boston to see his six-year-old daughter for the first time and his wife, amongst many other people who if I dared to approach I’m sure had their own stories to tell.

Waiting at the terminal
I left Port Authority at 11:00 a.m. on Tuesday (8/12) and arrived some 31 hours later on time in New Orleans at 6:30 p.m. on Wednesday (8/13). Along the way we made a few meal stops as they were called and I have to admit I see why America has an obesity problem. The only food options at these stops were McDonald’s or random other stops that had the options of Fried Chicken with or without fries. Unless you were packing your own meals, healthy options were few and far between.

Sleep was tough. The first bus I was on was pretty comfy, however, when we switched to a Carolina Tramways bus chartered by Greyhound it was far from comfortable. A school chair had more cushion that these seats and unfortunately it was the longest non-stop leg of the trip. Once in Atlanta, we changed buses to what felt like a Rolls Royce compared to tha old bus and I was able to get my only 3 hours of sleep along the way.
Seeing the night come and go was great and I really knew I was in the south when we stopped in Opelica, Alabama for a meal and ordered some good ‘ole salt cured bacon, grits and sweet tea. Getting close to New Orleans I chatted with a bus driver and reminisced about Katrina. She was telling me how she drove Greyhound buses to evacuate the people days after the storm and I remembered being on one of those flooded overpasses myself watching these people finally being taken out of that dire situation.

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