by Donna Rogers
Reprinted with permission from
Photographics Processing Magazine-Nov. 2001
Family members of firefighters lost in the collapse of the WTC
have been inundating the unit with requests for photos of previous
fires, searching for a morsel of a memory of their loved ones
on the job. Leavy says that they often are requested to make in-house
enlargements up to 16 x 20.
In the hours and days following the September 11 attack, the
streets of lower Manhattan were impassible. The Photo Unit shot
aerial scenes of downtown to map out the rescue effort. They worked
in support of the fire departments Phoenix Unit, which is
in charge of the logistics of getting to an emergency. After the
towers collapsed, there was debris everywhere and streets had
disappeared, Leavy explains. Using these aerial maps, the Phoenix
Unit created new geographic overlays of the citys topography,
quickly remapping emergency and demolition removal routes.
day, these maps were updated so that rescue and recovery workers
might be best directed to areas where they might recover bodies.
By flying very low in helicopters, the photographers were also
able to pinpoint areas with questionable structures. They burned
CDs of the images and gave them to whoever needed it, Leavy explains.
On a continuing basis, the unit has been tasked with chronicling
the scene at Ground Zero with still photos (the AV Unit is doing
the same with video). We are documenting the work of the
fire department, Leavy notes. They continue to record it
on a daily basishow it changes and how it progresses day-to-day.
He notices that the change at the site has been dramatic as time
goes on. After just one month, it went from having many, many
volunteers present to being populated with a much narrower contingent
With the chances of pulling survivors from the wreckage nil
after so much time, the FDNY photographers began looking at the
bigger picture, at the status of workers and debris removal. We
are taking human interest shots now, Leavy reflects. Its
history in the making.
Click to continue the article with Part
4 - Digital Saves Time, Emotions
Back to the Part 2 - Role of the Photographer
All photographs taken by the FDNY Photo Unit
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