We had the opportunity to check out John Botte’s “The 9-11 Photographs” exhibit before it officially opens to the public on Sunday, September 11. The exhibit contains about 20 large prints, many of which were made within the first 48 hours after the towers fell.
Botte, who was a detective in the NYPD at the time, explained to me that it was rare for him to ever show up to work without his camera by his side. That infamous day was no exception.
The collection of images offers many different perspectives of the events, including an unprecedented look into moments never before seen, such as former President George W. Bush standing in the street alongside former NYC Mayor Rudi Giuliani the day after the attacks.
Other shots offer a different view entirely. One print depicts a lone motorcycle, standing covered in dust, on an abandoned street—not a single person in site. Other photos put the focus purely on the human element, including one of a police officer hugging a dog from the canine unit (hear John explain the story behind that image in the video below).
Talk to John for any amount of time and it also becomes clear that he’s quite a chemist. In fact, some of the film used in the days following the attacks was more than 50 years old, and had to be developed using antiquated processes and chemicals. And despite shooting with fairly high ISO film, his images have virtually no grain, thanks to his intricate developing techniques.
One thing you will notice walking around the gallery, is the decisiveness inherent in all Botte’s images. He latter explained to me how he was “never much of a snap shooter.” All of his shots are carefully considered before the shutter is fired. And despite having better access to Ground Zero than virtually any other photographer on the planet, Botte refused to make images of the deceased—he simply did not feel it was right.
John Botte is easily one of the most intense and passionate photographers I have ever had the pleasure to meet and that passion and intensity definitely comes out in his work. Go see this exhibit (Also be sure to check out our full list of 9/11 photographic exhibits).
John Botte, The 9-11 Photographs
Opens: 9/11/11 at 3pm
The Gallery at Calumet
22 West 22nd Street, 2nd Floor
New York City