In 1983, French photographer Simon Chaput arrived in New York City for a weeklong trip, and ended up staying for nearly 35 years. From the 1980s to the 2010s, he worked closely with the artists Christo and Jeanne-Claude, helping them realize various projects around the world, from “The Umbrellas” (1984–1991) in California and Japan to “The Floating Piers” (2014–2016) in Italy. Along the way, in 1984, Chaput met the artist and sculptor Isamu Noguchi, who recognized Chaput’s love of photography—Chaput had been passionate about the medium since childhood, but had long stopped taking pictures—and encouraged him to get back into it. Chaput later channeled his admiration for the city and its chaotic energy into a long-term series of photographs entitled “New York,” which he began in 1996, that chronicled the developing built environment of Lower Manhattan.
Among the collection of striking black-and-white pictures are those of the twin towers. The geometric compositions exemplify Chaput’s inventive use of negative space and flair for unusual angling, and despite any familiarity with what’s being depicted, can prompt viewers to look twice. On the occasion of the 20th anniversary of 9/11, we spoke with Chaput, who’s now based in Miami, about his fascination with the iconic skyscrapers and how his emotions around his images of them have evolved over time.
What initially drew you to the twin towers?
I moved to New York from a rural village in France, and had never seen such tall buildings. Every time I walked out of my apartment or down a street, or flew back to New York from a trip, I’d see the towers, and know that I was home. They became emblematic of New York for me, and represented the energy, the diverse people, the excitement, and all of the possibilities of the city. Like totems, in a way.
The buildings were already completed when I arrived, but nothing around them was. I’d go back to look at them regularly, and to see how the light was hitting the structures. I just thought their architecture was extraordinary. I was attracted to their appearance, as well as the way they interacted with the whole downtown scene.
How did you go about photographing them?
Capturing these images was a love letter to the buildings and the city for me. It was very important that I only photographed them on very sunny days with blue skies, because I didn’t want anything to look like a landscape. When the sky has no clouds, I can play with the image using filters, and turn [certain areas] black, dark gray, or whatever color I need. There’s not a cloud in the sky in any of these images, or in any of my work, actually, so everything just looks like sculptures.
Looking at the pictures after the attacks, how did your view of them change?
They definitely became closer to my heart than they were before. As an artist, I’m grateful that I was able to have time to shoot the towers in a unique way before they were destroyed. On a personal level, they make me appreciate being alive, because 9/11 was a sad day of loss and devastation for so many people.
I was in France when it happened. When I was finally able to fly back to New York, I looked for the towers from the window of the plane. That was a hard moment. Their absence made the horrific tragedy feel real, and made me question what was next for New York, and for humanity.
Several years passed before you were ready to revisit these images. When you finally displayed them, how did people respond?
Some people were immediately happy to admire the beauty of the towers, and to see the photographs as a way to honor those we lost that day. For others, it was too soon to be reminded of the emotional aspects of 9/11, as the towers had come to represent tragedy. We all heal in different ways, and at different paces.
I think it gets easier, with each passing year, for [more people] to have a positive response to my photographs, and to feel less sadness, and more reverence, for the buildings. I hope they convey the inherent strength and beauty of the towers, of New Yorkers, and of the spirit of the city.
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In 1617, German artist Jobst Harrich completed an oil painting on a copper canvas. The work, which depicts a flaxen-hairposted Harrich’s painting to her feed and tweeted, “maybe if I take my tit out they will stop explaining my own joke back to me.” She applied this tactic to“Conversation in a Park,” depicting a gent gesturing toward a stoic lady (“you would be so much prettier if you smiled”), and a 1959 Norman Rockwell cover for the Saturday Evening Post, which portrays eleven men ganging up on a lone woman in a jury room (“thanks I’m gay now”). The thread went viral. A fMen to Avoid in Art and Life (Chronicle Books), sold out within days of its release. It features more than 90 artworks accompanied by wince-worthy c
An art critic, curator, and author, Antwaun Sargent has become a leading voice for a rising class of Black contemporary The New Black Vanguard: Photography Between Art and Fashion (Aperture), Sargent is serving up his next, as the editor of Young, Gifted and Black: A New Generation of Artists (D.A.P.), highlighting the works of Black artists from the Lumpkin-Boccuzzi Family Collection of Contemporary Art. An exhibition of the same name is currently on view at the Lehmann College Art Gallery (which is temporarily closed due to Covid-19)
New York–based artists and brothers Steven and William Ladd have been creating together for 20 years, using their comple“The Other Side,” on view through Oct. 17 at the Invisible Dog Art Center in Brooklyn’s Boerum Hill neighborhood, the Ladds have welcomed. Offering visceral and emotional depth to a population of society so often silenced and anonymized behind closed doors, t
Election season is upon us here in the U.S., and with all of the anxieties circulating around—pandemic-related risks, poThis is What Democracy Looked Like: A Visual History of the Printed Ballot (Princeton Architectural Press), a new book by Alicia Yin Cheng, a founding partner of the Brooklyn-based graphic design
Brooklyn-based writer and artist Edith Zimmerman served as the founding editor of The Hairpin—the former general-interest women’s website that defined a generation of online journalism, with pieces like the perenn“Women Laughing Alone With Salad”—and has gone on to contribute to outlets including The New York Times Magazine, The Cut, and the podcast This American Life. These days, you can find her work in Drawing Links, a frequently published newsletter of comics and musings. We recently polled Zimmerman about her current media diet. He
You are what you Google and “like.” This is an eerie truism of 21st-century life, where our experience of reality is larThe Social Dilemma, a new docu-drama premiering on Sept. 9 on Netflix, delves into the dangerous human impact that social networking has oCenter for Humane Technology (and our guest on Ep. 35 of At a Distance), says in the trailer: “If technology creates mass chaos, loneliness, polarization, more election hacking, [and] more i
Our summer quarantine days have far too often been spent gazing at web browser windows—far and away from vacation views,Window Swap, a mash-up of the virtual and physical. Designed as a “quarantine project” by creatives Sonali Ranjit and Vaishnav Bala
For the past five years, as one of the co-founders of the annual “JONALDDUDD” exhibition, designer Lydia Cambron has put on one of the most consistently surprising and challenging presentations of
School’s out forever—or at least for the immediate future, depending on what city you live in—and it’s certainly taking hands-on lesson plans, open-sourced and free to download, that are inspired by artists and objects from its permanent collection. “Fashioning
There’s a formula for homicide news stories: Place a TV anchor at the scene of a crime, and state that a victim was shotfatally shot in the U.S., including suicides and accidents. The sheer volume of incidents makes them easy to tune out: We don’t know
Five months on, living in a pandemic has become a new liminal normal, shifting our gaze toward the familiar sights, soun“Pandemic Objects,” an ongoing editorial project that highlights and reflects upon everyday objects (defined in the broadest sense) that hathe gaze of the drone, which has seen a surge in use worldwide in recent months, with people dispatching them in their hometowns—even to takejump rope that gives her pause as she riffles through the museum’s archives, uncovering photos, artworks, and accounts about the
The Internet Archive is one rabbit hole we’ve willingly jumped into more than a handful of times since the quarantine beWhole Earth Catalog, the 1960s counterculture print publication often referred to as “the web before the web existed”—its iconic, jam-packeElectric Whole Earth Catalog, now available on the site. Originally launched in 1998 on CD-ROM (how quaint!), the lo-fi “electric” edition offers a
Home is where the heart is—but, on the silver screen, it can be a bit forlorn. In his recently published broadside publiSad People in Modernist Homes in Popular Films, Los Angeles–based designer and art director Benjamin Critton explores the much-maligned trope of the Modernist home in popular culture, with contributing essays from writers Erik BSad People—the long-awaited follow-up to his 2010 edition, Evil People in Modernist Homes in Popular Films—and what filmic mood may strike him next for volume three of the ongoing project.
Geographer and environmental anthropologist Gina Rae La Cerva spent three years journeying around the world in search of undomesticated food for her new book, Feasting Wild: In Search of the Last Untamed Food (Greystone Books). We recently caught up with La Cerva, currently stationed in Santa Fe, to ask about her media diet. (Ep. 39 of At a Distance.)
For more than 25 years, Paola Antonelli, the director of R&D and senior curator of design and architecture at New York’sDesign Emergency, Antonelli has teamed with renowned London-based design critic Alice Rawsthorn to explore the role design has played—anEp. 25 of our At a Distance podcast.)
States across the U.S. may be entering Phase 2 of post-lockdown reopenings, but short of a vaccine, public health expertQuarantine Coloring Book, uploading a new free, downloadable image by a different illustrator each day. The project exploded overnight, with thoAccording to research, coloring can have a similar effect on our minds as meditation, helping to ease anxiety, fears, and restless thoughts—i
As museums around the world (or, most of them, anyway) remain closed, and a once-global calendar of openings and festiva@covidartmuseum—started on Instagram by three Barcelona-based art directors, Emma Calvo, Irene Llorca, and Jose Guerrero—has become som
For the better part of the past decade, Cindy Trinh has been documenting social justice movements around New York City with her ongoing Activist NYC project. Here, Trinh, a photographer with a background in law, shares her observations on the current Black Lives Matte
Melbourne-based Kai Brach, a former web designer and the publisher/editor of Offscreen, an independent print magazine about technology, and Dense Discovery, a weekly newsletter about productivity and inspiration, shares his current media diet with us—and why he firmly believ