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Dissociative Disorders

by Michael Feldschuh (editor)
Regan Books, 2002
Review by Christian Perring, Ph.D. on Oct 2nd 2002

The September 11 Photo Project

The September 11 Photo Project is a collection of nearly 200 pages of both color and black and white photographs by more than one hundred photographers is a small sample of the more than four thousand that were donated from New York and the rest of the world.  They were first exhibited in a SoHo gallery in New York City.  They include many images of the Twin Towers being hit by the planes, on fire, collapsing, and in rubble.  No matter how familiar those images become, they continue to hold great power.  It’s not just that they are visually compelling but also that, more than a year after the attack, it is hard to accept that the towers fell and seeing the photographic evidence is still jarring. 

What most of these photographs add to the now familiar is a personal element.  Many of the pictures are accompanied by text written by the photographer explaining the context of what was happening at the time, or what his or her reaction was.  Other pictures show people reacting to or affected by the attack. We even see how the photographs were displayed at the exhibition, attached to the wall by metal clips, grouped by photographer.  This adds a different dimension to the visual record, deepening the meanings of the images. 

Of course, there have been many television programs featuring the personal stories of those affected by the attack, and a large number of them have been both gripping and extremely moving.  But the experience of browsing through a book of photographs is very different; one has more control over the order one looks at the pages, the time of day and place one views them, how long one dwells on particular images.  Furthermore, one doesn’t have to endure commercials or sponsor messages during one’s viewing, and often one feels less concerned about being manipulated by the program-makers editorial decisions.

These pictures are deeply personal; many of them show the shock and horror on the faces of people seeing the Towers on fire or collapsing, the pain and exhaustion of rescue workers, and the different messages of anger, revenge, national pride and anti-war feelings of people reacting to the attack, the various tributes to those who died.  Especially haunting are images of New York City in the nights after immediately after the attack, quiet and still covered by a cloud of smoke and dust.  It is good to see some photographs from around the rest of the USA and some other countries, showing different reactions and a few showing the contrast of different ways of life at the same time as Americans were going through national crisis. 

The September 11 Photo Project is a book of high quality, full of remarkable photographs.  Looking through it may be therapeutic for some people and may upset others, but one of the most valuable functions it can serve is to help people achieve a greater sense of understanding of what happened on the day of the attack and how we reacted to it.

 

© 2002 Christian Perring. All rights reserved.

Christian Perring, Ph.D., is Chair of the Philosophy Department at Dowling College, Long Island. He is editor of Metapsychology Online Review. His main research is on philosophical issues in psychiatry. He is especially interested in exploring how philosophers can play a greater role in public life, and he is keen to help foster communication between philosophers, mental health professionals, and the general public.