Jonathan Hyman: American Photographer
ANNOUNCING THE PUBLICATION OF JONATHAN HYMAN'S NEW BOOK
"The Landscapes of 9/11: A Photographer's Journey"
RELEASED ON AUG. 1, 2013
(see below for details and further description)
This lens is to help promote the artist and photographer, Jonathan Hyman. I first met Mr. Hyman in 2006 on the 5th year anniversary of 9/11 while I was volunteering at his solo exhibition of 63 large format photographs featuring his documentary work. This exhibition was the first public programming of the National September 11Memorial and Museum. I was impressed by his honesty, his eye for American culture, and his emotional description of photographing it. Right after the 9/11 attacks he went to more than twenty states around the country and photographed the various memorials, tributes, and deeply personal expressions that people were making and leaving in public places. He captured this seminal moment in American history along with all of the heartfelt passion, sorrow, and patriotism that people expressed after a catastrophic terrorist attack on our nation. Mr. Hyman's hard work, persistent effort, and discerning photographic eye will ensure that we "will never forget."
Updated Oct. 2018
Announcing a New Exhibit at the 9/11 Museum - Thru May 2016
Biography and Contact Information
Jonathan Hyman holds a Master of Fine Arts degree from Hunter College in New York City, where studied painting and photography. He was an Eagelson Scholar and a Somerville Art Prize recipient at Hunter, and as an undergraduate art major at Rutgers University Hyman was a Henry Rutgers Scholar. He has lectured widely about his work and experiences documenting the vernacular response to 9/11 at universities and colleges in the United States and in 2008, toured Europe in 2008 as a State Department Cultural Envoy under the auspices of the American Embassy in Vienna, Austria, lecturing at Universities in Austria, Germany, the Czech Republic, and Croatia.
Hyman, a freelance photographer, is Associate Director for Conflict and Visual Culture initiatives at the Solomon Asch Center for Study of Ethnopolitical Conflict at Bryn Mawr College. He has exhibited his photographs at well known museums and libraries and his photographs have been published in Time magazine, The New York Times, regional and local newspapers, magazines and in print and online media across the United States and Europe.
On the five year anniversary of the September 11th attacks, Hyman's work was featured in a solo exhibition of 63 large photographs as the first public programming of the National September 11 Memorial and Museum. The museum published a full colored cata with a forward by the novelist and columnist, Pete Hammill. Additionally, Hyman's work was also featured in a solo exhibition of 100 photographs at the National Constitution Center in Philadelphia, and was accompanied by wall panel text, written by the well known public historian Edward Linenthal.
Hyman's works was featured on the PBS NewsHour on the occasion of the ten year anniversary of the 9/11 attacks. In addition, on the ten year anniversary, Hyman's work was featured in a solo exhibition at Duke University along with public programming. A second solo exhibition was staged at the Wald/Kim gallery in New York City. His work centers on contemporary popular culture, vernacular expression, and public memory as it appears on the side of the road. Hyman's main areas of interest are memory, memorialization, social class, public speech, and art displayed in public.
Hyman lives in the upstate community of Bethel, New York with his wife, Gail, daughter Jane, and German Shorthaired Pointer, Quincy.
Jonathan Hyman, Photographer
Documentary, Commercial, Fine Art, Events
PO Box 687
New York, 12778
(01) M. 917-733-5195
Schedule of activities...
- ANNOUNCING THE PUBLICATION OF JONATHAN HYMAN'S BOOK TO BE RELEASED ON AUGUST 1, 2013.
"The Landscapes of 9/11: A Photographer's Journey"
Photographs by Jonathan Hyman.
Edited by Edward Linenthal, Jonathan Hyman, Christiane Gruber.
University of Texas, Press.
Black and white images with a 32 page color insert.
For information on the book and/or to place an order see:
BOOK SIGNING EVENTS TO BE POSTED IN THE FUTURE.
In the emotional aftermath of the September 11, 2001, attacks, people from all walks of life created and encountered memorials to those who were murdered. Vernacular art appeared almost everywhere-on walls, trees, playgrounds, vehicles, houses, tombstones, and even on bodies. This outpouring of grief and other acts of remembrance impelled photographer Jonathan Hyman to document and so preserve these largely impermanent, spontaneous expressions. His collection of 20,000 photographs, along with field notes and personal interviews, constitutes a unique archive of 9/11 public memory. In The Landscapes of 9/11, Hyman offers readers a representative sampling of his photographs and also relates his own story in a clear and detailed narrative. He is joined by a diverse group of scholars and museum professionals, including editors Edward Linenthal and Christiane Gruber, who use the Hyman collection to investigate the cultural functions of memorial practices in the United States and beyond, including Northern Ireland, the Palestinian West Bank, and Iran. The volume's contributors explore a variety of topics, including the "documentary impulse" in American photography; the value of Hyman's collection as cornerstone material for the shapers of the 9/11 Memorial Museum in New York City; and the tensions between official national narratives of heroism and martyrdom, and vernacular expressions of hope, grief, patriotism, and revenge. Created for a wide readership, and richly illustrated, The Landscapes of 9/11 explores the role of visual expression in contemporary acts of memorialization.
ABOUT THE AUTHORS AND CO-EDITORS:
Edward T. Linenthal is Professor of History and Editor of the Journal of American History at Indiana University, Bloomington.
Jonathan Hyman is a freelance photographer and Associate Director for Conflict and Visual Culture initiatives at the Solomon Asch Center for Study of Ethnopolitical Conflict at Bryn Mawr College. He has exhibited his 9/11 photographs at libraries and museums, including the National September 11 Memorial and Museum.
Christiane Gruber is Associate Professor of Islamic Art at the University of Michigan.
Having long been a fan of Jonathan Hyman's photographs documenting the vernacular 9/11 memorials dotting the American landscape, I am very glad to see his work contextualized and reproduced so vividly in this collected volume. . . . This is an important book. (James E. Young, Distinguished University Professor and Director, Institute for Holocaust, Genocide, and Memory Studies, University of Massachusetts, Amherst)
COMMENTS ON HYMAN'S WORK:
* Shannon Perich, Associate Curator of the Smithsonian's Photographic History Collection, states, "There are bodies of work that document the varied American responses to Vietnam, other wars, and national issues, but none with the same focus on the intersection between national tragedy, personal experience and public expression. Like Alexander Gardner's Civil War work, Hyman's is a rare and historically important group of materials that will sit as a central point of departure for September 11th imagery and the understanding of our era.
* Indiana University History Professor and Editor of the Journal of American History, Edward Linenthal says: "I have spent the past twenty-five years writing about American memories of battlefields, museum exhibitions, the aftermath of the Oklahoma City bombing, and I am now serving as a member of the Flight 93 Federal Advisory Commission. I have never, however, seen a more stunning visual record of a national response to catastrophe than Hyman's... Jonathan Hyman is an unusual talent who has assembled an invaluable, unique and transcendent collection."
* Yale Sociology Professor Jeffrey Alexander remarks, "This is a magnificent body of photographic ethnography that marks a major construction of the nation's collective memory. It will be looked at, and remembered, for decades if not centuries to come."
* Author Pete Hamill writes, "Jonathan Hyman's photographs remain as powerful in their way as anything that might rise from the ruined acres of the World Trade Center. … they remind us of an entire time in our history. Not simply New York history, but American history. They will make some of us ache for years to come."
A New Americana: Visual Response to 9/11 - Project Description
In the aftermath of September 11, 2001, the American landscape was transformed by public acts of mourning and memory making. At the attack sites in New York City, Washington D.C., and Shanksville, Pennsylvania, people created makeshift memorials with signs, candles, flowers, pictures of the dead, and other tokens of remembrance. But the memorial response to 9/11 was not limited to those sites. Like the shocking, unforgettable images of the burning World Trade Center towers, the emotional impact of the attacks spread across the nation and around the world, and along with it came the need to grieve, to commemorate, to respond in some way to what had happened. As individuals and communities grappled with intense feelings of sorrow, anger, fear, and patriotism, they often felt compelled to express their private thoughts in public, visible ways, using elements of the landscape -- buildings, cars, even their own bodies -- as their canvas.
Since September 11, 2001, New York-based photographer Jonathan Hyman has been documenting these memorial responses. He has taken an estimated 20,000 photographs (digital and film), covering territory from Maine to Florida and across parts of the Midwest. His images depict a range of subjects and artistic styles-murals painted by graffiti artists, farmhouses painted with gigantic American flags, firefighters with elaborate memorial tattoos. In contrast to official, permanent memorials, these images capture largely impermanent, spontaneous expressions created and encountered by people in their everyday lives. Hyman's photographs, together with detailed notes and informal interviews taken in the field, reveal the creation and evolution of a vernacular memorial culture and vocabulary around the events of 9/11.
To mark the fifth anniversary of the terrorist attacks, Hyman's work was featured in two distinctly different solo exhibitions. The first, at Ground Zero in New York City titled, 9/11 and the American Landscape: Photographs by Jonathan Hyman was the first public programming by the National September 11 Memorial and Museum. Curated by Clifford Chanin, President of The Legacy Project, the exhibit presented 63 large color photographs and was accompanied by a full color catalogue with an introduction by the author and columnist, Pete Hamill. The other exhibit, 9/11: A Nation Remembers was hosted by the National Constitution Center in Philadelphia. It featured 100 photographs and panel text by renowned public memory scholar and Editor of the Journal of American History, Edward Linenthal,
9/11 was not a regional or national event. It was and will always be a world changing international event. Hyman's work is worthy of serious investigation and study across a broad range of academic disciplines -- from History to American Studies and from Cultural Anthropology to Folk Art and Art History. His work is being examined by scholars, museums, and cultural institutions with great interest.
- Jonathan Hyman, Photographer
Documentary, Commercial, Fine Art
PO Box 687
New York, 12778
Some selected works...
All Photographs Â© Jonathan Hyman all rights reserved
Comments and Writing by Scholars and Industry Professionals
- Photographing Pride, Pain, and Patriotism
By Shannon Perich
How fortunate we are to have Jonathan Hyman with his vision, persistence and stamina to photograph and record the ephemeral, private, and personal responses to the September 11, 2001 attacks. His large body of works encapsulates the palpable reactions to this history-changing event.
As future historians, social scientists, and art historians look back to visualize the much written about American response to the September 11th attacks, they will turn to look at Hyman's body of work in much the same way we now view Alexander Gardner's portfolio of Civil War photography. Within his body of photographs one can clearly see the wounded and angry, yet proud and patriotic, voices of individuals, gatherings and communities. As a photo historian, I have not seen a body of work focusing on the private responses to a national event on the scale in which Hyman has worked. The FSA photographers' work, whose photographs captured the devastating effects of drought and depression, is the only body of work that I can begin to relate his work to, and their project was executed by a team of photographers on government assignments. There are bodies of work that document the varied American responses to Vietnam, other wars, and national issues, but none with the same focus on the intersection between national tragedy, personal experience and public expression. Like Gardner's work, Hyman's is a rare and historically important group of materials that will sit as a central point of departure for September 11th imagery and the understanding of our era.
In addition to the work's subject matter being compelling and historic, the quality of the work is outstanding. Hyman is able to document the subject's point of view without interjecting his own politics or feelings. He uses his artistic training and sensibility to skillfully and eloquently document a broad range of emotional and personal subjects with sincerity. Hyman creates an artistic image while always allowing for the subject's primacy. This work, worthy of exhibition and publication, will serve both scholars and the general public well. Hyman's collection offers insight and understanding into the powerful and meaningful expressions made by those who are grappling, dealing, and surviving with the tragedy of the September 11th attacks.
There has been no event like September 11th in our history. There has been no other time in which the American public manifested so many visceral displays of emotion. Photography is the only way to document the shear volume of it. It would not be possible to physically collect the materials that Hyman has photographed. One can only collect the tattoos through photography. There are, too, many individual memorials; the headstones are sacred; the murals huge and, made specifically for the place in which they were created. The only way to insist that future scholars and citizens be able to see the breadth and depth of the American vernacular response to September 11th is through photography, beginning with Jonathan Hyman's work.
Associate Curator of Photography
Photographic History Collection
Smithsonian's National Museum of American History
- The Photographs of Jonathan Hyman
By Edward T. Linenthal
I am delighted to write in enthusiastic support of photographer Jonathan Hyman, whose incomparable and very important photographic collection will make the institution which houses his 9/11 documentary archive an important player in the study of post-9/11 American culture. Truly, his work presents a rich and unique American memorial vocabulary responding to a transformative national event.
I first met Jonathan in the summer of 2006 when the National Constitution Center in Philadelphia asked me to write brief panel text for their exhibition featuring his work in a solo exhibition titled, "9/11: A Nation Remembers." I traveled to Philadelphia to work with Jonathan and the curators, and I was stunned by what I saw. I have spent the past twenty-five years writing about American memories of battlefields, museum exhibitions, the aftermath of the Oklahoma City bombing, and I am now serving as a member of the Flight 93 Federal Advisory Commission. I have never, however, seen a more stunning visual record of a national response to catastrophe than Hyman's. The story of his energies over a period of years is compelling in itself. However, I was even more impressed with the thoughtfulness of Hyman's interpretive labors regarding the cultural meanings of his collection. By cataloguing and exhibiting his materials and photographs, a collecting institution could offer scholars, visitors, and students a most creative and unusual voice in helping them think about how the arts contribute to our cultural memories of events such as 9/11. Jonathan's collection also offers a very different perspective, that of someone who has done the physical work that allowed him to practice his craft and present the insights of his interpretive labors.
After meeting Jonathan and viewing portions of his collection, I immediately asked him to write a four thousand word essay on his collection-including visual material of course-to be included in a special project of the Journal of American History, "American Faces: Photography in the 20th Century." (We stretched the boundary of the century because of his essay!) He has written an essay characterized by one of our readers as the best essay in the project. This appeared in the June 2007 issue of the JAH. Jonathan also spoke as the keynote speakers at our Department of History's graduate student conference in March, 2007.
In my opinion, Hyman's collection will become even more useful over time as we gain distance from the events of 9/11. He has shown through his photography and his interpretive skills that he will continue to make original contributions to scholars, students, the art world, and the wider public through disciplined reflection on his collection. The overwhelmingly positive response to his exhibitions in Philadelphia, similar exhibition at Ground Zero in New York, and his two ten-year anniversary exhibitions are indicative of the need for the voices of scholars, artists, and those like Jonathan Hyman who creatively straddle these boundaries, to continue to help us understand the various cultural functions of memorialization.
Jonathan Hyman is an unusual talent who has assembled an invaluable, unique and transcendent collection.
Edward T. Linenthal
Professor of History, Indiana University
Editor, Journal of American History
- Constructing a National Memory: The Photographs of Jonathan Hyman
By Jeffrey Alexander
As our understanding of the impact of the Holocaust on human history has grown, humanists and social scientists have incorporated the idea of "social trauma" into their disciplinary vocabularies. For the last decade, some of my colleagues and I have been engaged in developing a cultural-sociological approach. Our studies have shown a surprising thing: It is not only the direct experience of victims that determines the importance of a traumatic event, but the way society processes the event in the days, months, and years after it occurred. It is the psychological identification and cultural extension of the trauma experience that is significant.
Jonathan Hyman's photographic documentaries demonstrate this post-event process in startling and vivid detail. They show how Americans in all walks of life, in every class, race, and ethnic group reacted to 9/11 and made it their own. Hyman's work also demonstrates, in this context, the specific power of the plastic arts, how trauma experience is incorporated through shapes and forms and not through words. Art, both creation and consumption, is at the core of the meaning-making process.
Hyman's collection will be invaluable as historical material on many levels, across a wide segment of the arts and social sciences. That said, I also believe it is very important to explore what his photographs say to us now. They will help us, as a nation, to process our continuing encounters with violence and death, linking us to our earlier working-through of collective trauma to our particular situation today. It is vital to expose his collection through exhibition, publication, and documentaries across the country in order that all Americans see his work. I have begun this process myself by inviting Mr. Hyman to speak and present at Yale's Center for Cultural Sociology in September of 2006, on the five year anniversary of the 9/11 attacks.
This is a magnificent body of photographic ethnography that marks a major construction of the nation's collective memory. It will be looked at, and remembered, for decades if not centuries to come.
Lillian Chavenson Saden Professor of Sociology
Co-Director, Center for Cultural Sociology
- Chronicling The Folk Art of National Tragedy: The Photographs of 9/11
By Angus Kress Gillespie
I have served as a scholar of the folk arts and as the director of the New Jersey Folk Festival at Rutgers University for more than thirty years. As the author of several books and numerous articles, I feel well qualified to comment upon the value of the work of New York photographer Jonathan Hyman. I have long been an advocate of the discovery, study, documentation, preservation, and exhibition of folk art. I have, over the years since 9/11 invited Mr. Hyman to address my classes at Rutgers or a conference I have hosted. Our American Studies department featured his work in a University sponsored lecture at the E.J. Bloustein School of Planning and Public Policy in the fall of 2006.
We remember that in the immediate aftermath of the attacks of September 11, 2001, there was a widespread, spontaneous artistic expression of mourning, of anger, and of patriotism among the American people. These expressions took many forms, including spontaneous shrines, roadside memorials, and large-scale urban murals. In the months immediately following the attacks, Jonathan Hyman took the initiative to travel the east coast and parts of the Mid-west, documenting the wide variety of grassroots artistic ways that Americans expressed their sorrow. Hyman, as an independent photographer embarked on this project on his own time and at his own expense. There was no time to seek government approval or to apply for foundation grants. Realizing that this was ephemeral art, there was no time to lose.
The artwork captured by Jonathan Hyman defies ready categorization. In his 20,000 photographs we find images in every imaginable place and context. People transformed their homes, businesses, parks, the roofs and sides of barns and buildings, motor vehicles, and even their bodies into public memorials and places for art and expression. These images, or offerings, which depict a hurt and stunned citizenry, were left in all types of places, including the fields of Pennsylvania, the streets of New York City and Washington D.C., and rural upstate New York. For the most part, this art was produced by self-taught artists without formal training.
The five year anniversary of the 9/11 attacks has passed and the ten year anniversary is upon us with Mr. Hyman's work having been featured in two national solo museum exhibitions, a publication and large solo gallery exhibits, one in New York City and the other at Duke University. As we move forward as a society and a people who are just beginning to understand what the attacks mean to us, Hyman's work is not only more relevant and poignant than ever, but will become a focal point for those in the heartland of our country, Europe, and beyond to understand the trauma that these events brought to our nation.
I predict that, in the years to come, the artistic and intellectual community will come to see Jonathan Hyman as the key photographer of the War on Terror, just as we now recognize Matthew Brady in terms of the Civil War. Hyman has done his part in the timely discovery and documentation of these important artistic expressions. His ten-year project resulted in a major and important collection. There is nothing else like it. In the years ahead, his work will be celebrated by educators, historians, writers, collectors, dealers, curators, museums, libraries, and
art enthusiasts from across the United States and around the world.
Angus Kress Gillespie, Professor
Rutgers University Department of American Studies
- From the Street to The Museum: Jonathan Hyman and the Documentation of Vernacular Art
By Charles Brock
I am interested in what the photographs and the objects portrayed in Jonathan Hyman's photographs suggest about the relationship between art of the street and the art of the museum. Modern American culture has in large part been defined by the dialogue between a canonical mainstream and what has, if labeled at all, been called variously outsider, folk, or visionary art. Indeed a traditional role of museums has been to define for a general public exactly what is most representative of their culture; they seek to circumscribe and preserve a collective cultural memory. While successful on many counts one of the problems with such a model is that it often isolates the ends of the artistic process -- summary, synthetical works -- from their true sources which are often found in vernacular expressions. To use an organic metaphor, in a museum you often see just the bloom, but not the stem and roots, with the result that palpable connections between life and art are sometimes obscured or lost
It has often been argued by cultural critics such as siegfried Kracauer that the most compelling and salient characteristic of film is its capacity to capture the real. In this capacity film's status as art is problematic; film's role is instead seen primarily as an intermediary between direct experience and artistic creation. Regarding the works people created in the aftermath of the September 11th attacks and Hyman's photographs of them, I would argue that they are both part of an organic process that is leading to the more permanent and monumental forms which will eventually be found in the art of the museum. The works and Hyman's pictures represent the early stages of a cultural dialogue, the evidence of which, because of its inherently ephemeral nature, would have been largely lost and obscured if not for his efforts. His collection serves an important documentary role by preserving objects, events, and gestures, and, as such, it is an invaluable resource in understanding the infinite complexity of the ways in which the experience of tragedy and loss is memorialized in art.
In conjunction with their function as historic documents, these photographs also display Hyman's own considerable skills as an artist and should be considered as works of art in their own right. Hyman was clearly transfixed by the breadth and magnitude of what he saw taking place around him. He has elegantly made conceptual sense out of the fallout and disorder following the 9/11 attacks. His photographs, carefully composed and vividly realized, constitute a unique monument about monuments, a profound memorial for which there are few precedents.
American and British Paintings
National Gallery of Art
- 9/11 and the American Landscape
By Clifford Chanin
The attacks could not have been more brutal. An assault on buildings filled with people, using commercial airliners as weapons of mass destruction. Time's passing has added layers of meaning to these events, but the fifth anniversary brings us back to a shared starting point: death and destruction on a scale unimagined in the heart of our city, heroic responses from around the corner and around the country, the resolve to go on and to remember.
Thinking about the immediate aftermath, Pete Hamill recalls the unfamiliar outburst of American colors across a city that had seldom made much display of them. "For the first time in many years," he writes, "New York began to feel like an American city, instead of a separate place." It seems that there was a similar pull on the other side of this divide: New York, so long a place apart, found welcome in a national embrace.
This embrace is the subject of Jonathan Hyman's pictures. From within sight of Ground Zero to the far corners of rural America, Hyman captures markers of memory - imprints on the local landscape that bring back the essentials of September 11th. On barn doors, firefighters. In tattoos, portraits of the dead. Idyllic recreations of the towers on automobiles. Those same buildings - aflame and collapsed - in murals. Images of horror and patriotism brought close to home, no matter how far home was from downtown Manhattan.
Much of the tribute art that Hyman photographed appeared spontaneously, but it drew from those first, wrenching images of the trauma. In this context, we inevitably think of the stricken individuals standing on New York streets, holding posters of missing loved ones. These were not so much tributes, as prayers for deliverance. Soon enough, we realized, none of those people would be coming home. The posters would serve as tombstones for those who had simply vanished. The scope of the loss was amplified with the appearance of the New York Times Portraits in Grief series: brief biographies, run daily, of the seemingly endless stream of victims. In these few paragraphs, we found the outlines of lives that seemed so much like our own.
Taken together, the missing posters and the Portraits formed a sudden arc of grief, encompassing the vitality of the lives lost, and the agony of the bereaved. All this, in real-time, in front of countless eyes - an occasion of shared witness that would lay the groundwork for tributes that would soon follow.
This shared witness accounts for the intimacy in Jonathan Hyman's pictures from places we do not know. Whether on a back street in the Bronx or along a Pennsylvania highway, they return us to a single time and place. In journeying back together, we recognize our bonds to one another. And so, we re-live the shared intimacies of September 11th. Then, we saw strangers like us - going to work, serving breakfast, waiting for an elevator - snatched away in the middle of their lives. Now, in recalling these deaths, we come to know one another. We share - these pictures remind us - the thwarted intimacy of remembering people we can never know.
There is something so unexpected about finding this intimacy where Hyman did. These are, after all, public places - many of them nondescript settings that would ordinarily get no more than a brief glance. Through these tributes, however, landscape holds up a mirror to memory. Again and again, we can catch reflections of what is no more, of what we will increasingly struggle to remember, in places where we would never have expected them to be. What is missing from Ground Zero has been recaptured in memory and dispersed across the American landscape.
These ways of remembering follow a certain logic. At first, sudden and massive violence can produce a documentary impulse in artist-witnesses. An event like 9/11 is literally unbelievable, in spite of its happening right before our eyes. The depiction of the disaster in created images is a first response, a kind of proof that states clearly: This is what we have seen. And so, the burning Towers are a constant presence in these works, whether on wall murals or tattoos. Though we live in an age of endlessly replayed video, this need for self-made documentation persists. It is an assertion of witness that stamps a public event with a personal authority.
From the documentary, memorialization follows. Having established the reality of the event itself, memory focuses on its victims. As the Hyman photos show, names and faces of the dead appear in a variety of settings. Again, this is not what we would normally expect from familiar landscapes. But memory is now pushing further, from stunned documentation into horror. The consequences of what happened are again made clear: Here is someone who was killed. If one finds enough of these memorials, as Hyman did, then one is mapping an imagined cemetery, with individual gravestones spread across the landscape - final resting places for so many who disappeared into the collapse of the buildings.
Across these dispersed memorials, the firefighters recur constantly. They died in service. Their actions were collective: a concerted response by a uniformed, public agency to the attack. The concept of service - the duty of taking on the dangers of that day - fuses the public and private elements of the tragedy. This is what accounts for the overwhelming presence of firefighters in such a wide array of memorials. Here, they are surely individuals, but also something more. They are a unifying presence, a reminder of something more. The famous image of the firefighters raising the flag at Ground Zero - recalling the Marines' flag-raising at Iwo Jima in World War Two, and later echoed in 9/11 memorials - speaks of a continuity of purpose that survives the fallen firefighters, a continuity of purpose that can only be collective.
And this brings us to the American flag: the most hallowed symbol of the American collective, as well as the most frequently-recurring icon in the Hyman photographs. Instinctively, the tribute artists of 9/11 looked to the flag. To enshroud the fallen. To comfort their loved ones. To enfold their sacrifice within the narrative of American history. The flag offers assurance that this story continues, and that inscribed within it are the dead of 9/11.
Jonathan Hyman shows us tribute art that has, from its first expression, asserted an uninterrupted continuity between what happened on 9/11 and the longer American past. At times angry, at times sorrowful, often pitch-perfect, these works declare publicly the mix of private feelings that Americans of all stripes have shared. In spirit, they are undaunted by of the magnitude of the tragedy. In effect, they have seeded honor and consolation across the American landscape.
Some Links to Jonathan Hyman's Work
- New York City 10 Year Anniversary Exhibit
9/11: Visual Response On The Street Photographs by Jonathan Hyman Curated by Jeffrey Wechsler (Senior Curator, Zimmerli Museum, Rutgers University) This exhibition documents vernacular and spontaneous artwork produced in reaction to the September 11
- Duke University Exhibit
Newest Exhibit at Duke University Library - May 9 thru October 16, 2011 Flesh and Metal, Bodies and Buildings (Works from Jonathan Hyman's Archive of 9/11 Vernacular Memorials) Curated by Pedro Lasch
- Article in the Journal of American History (2007)
Jonathan Hyman - The Public Face of 9/11: Memory and Portraiture in the Landscape Article features 40 pictures that accompany Hyman's description of how he executed his 9/11 documentary project as well as offers insights and anecdotal impressions of
Poll on 9/11 Anniversary
What will you do on the 6th Anniversary of 9/11?
© 2007 Jack Lee