A Day of Landmarks – Olivia Cohen

I took this photo at a street fair in NYC last year. I was intrigued by this woman's lifestyle; she explained how she didn't have a lot of money but that it didn't matter as long as she was making jewelry. I tried to capture a photograph that would tell her story and I plan on doing the same when I photograph the 9/11 memorial site's visitors in the future. ©Olivia Cohen

As summer high school photography students at Tisch, we are given the extraordinary opportunity to travel to eminent sites located in NYC. We’ve already visited incredible places such as the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Leica gallery, and Brooklyn- in just one week! I woke up this morning eager to visit Governors Island, one of New York City’s historic landmarks that I had yet to experience.

Located in the heart of New York Harbor, Governor’s Island is historically known for Fort Jay and Castle William, which served as early outposts to protect NYC from enemy naval attacks. Today, the island offers free National Park Service walking tours, bike riding, picnicking, art installations, fairs, festivals, and concerts. We were lucky enough to explore the island and this included a visit to the Visual Arts Studios that showcased a number of artists’ work. This open gallery included many artists who created mixed media projects. It was interesting to see an exhibit featuring both photography and other mediums. My favorite showcase was created by an artist named Charles Koegel. Most of Koegel’s artwork relates to New York City’s dense urban environment. He chose to focus on sculpture/installation and drawings that were inspired by architectural and geometrical forms. His work is truly beautiful; I admired his minimalist approach along with his unique color choices.

Governors Island, organized by Public Art Fund and the Governors Island Preservation and Education Corporation, features photographs by Lisa Kereszi and Andrew Moore. Although I did not get the chance to view these photographs in person, they are available online. The exhibition features twenty-nine colored photographs that reveal the beauty in Governors Island’s architecture, landscape, and “hidden spaces.” Both photographers are New York City-based and began this project from late fall 2003 until early spring 2004. Their photographs feature a range of particular locations on Governors Island that are key elements in making the island as special as it is.

After a long day at Governors Island, the Tischtography students made one last stop that will stay with me forever. We arrived at the 9/11 Memorial Preview Site around five o’clock. Although I’ve been following the World Trade Center building project’s progress, I had never visited the actual site. The site of the collapse is much different than any other place Tischtography has visited before. As I walked through the area I noticed a lingering sense of both sorrow and hope as opposed to the energetic and lively sentiment present at Governors Island. I could not tell if the goosebumps on my arms came from the wind or the feeling I got from looking up at the site of  disaster that occurred almost ten years ago. It was difficult for me to take photographs of this site- how could I possibly capture all of the emotions felt here in one photograph? I did, however, recognize the American flags that were mounted all over the site. I tried to include at least one flag in every photograph that I took. The entire country was affected by the events of September 11, 2001 and this tragedy ultimately brought our country together. The flag is a symbol of unity that was necessary after the event and I aimed to present this idea through the photos I captured.

When the memorial opens September 11, 2012, I plan on returning back to the site and taking pictures of not only the incredible architecture, but the people who visit the memorial. The public’s reaction to the site will further show the affect of the attack and I hope to take photographs that present each individual’s reaction to this. I am most interested in photojournalism and I believe that this project will not only allow me to practice taking photos within this genre but also let me become comfortable engaging with my subject in order to convey his/her exact feelings to the audience.

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