Monuments of Void:
Wolf von dem Bussche’s Photographs of the Twin Towers
In 1976, Wolf von dem Bussche photographed the Twin Towers as part of a larger body of work in which he paid homage to Hungarian photographer, André Kertész. Monuments of Void: Wolf von dem Bussche’s Photographs of the Twin Towers includes five photographs from his “Homage to Kertész” portfolio. This portfolio, which comes from the California Museum of Photography’s permanent collection, depicts the Twin Towers at the World Trade Center, which were designed by Minoru Yamasaki and Associates and opened to the public in 1973. These buildings in Lower Manhattan were looked at as icons of modernism and a sign of overt capitalism. Von dem Bussche’s photographs blatantly crop and abstract the soaring expanse of the 110-story glass and steel office towers. In doing so, he removes the larger context of New York from the frame, as if to unground or destabilize both the iconic power of the towers and the viewers’ relationship with them.
Through referencing Kertész (Figure 1), who had photographed much of New York City from the late 1960’s until his death in 1985, von dem Bussche re-aestheticizes Kertész’s approach while still questioning the form and style of the towers. Using light, shadow, and the atmospheric surroundings of the buildings quite strategically, von dem Bussche presents the Twin Towers in a very stark and constructivist manner. The photographs not only become de-familiarized to the viewers, but they also begin to conjure up elements of memorialization through their abstracted nature.
Monuments of Void: Wolf von dem Buscche’s Photographs of the Twin Towers addresses the absence of the towers in Lower Manhattan’s iconic skyline. These photographs produce in viewers a deep feeling of unease that gets reawakened after each viewing. The destruction and loss of the towers created such a void that the New York skyline became irrevocably altered. The meaning of the towers also completely change in light of the events of September 11, 2001 and they now stand more as a sign of nationalism and pride. Given the events of September 11th, Wolf von dem Buscche’s photographs now take on an added poignancy and serve as not only a visual eulogy to André Kertész but also a memorial to the Twin Towers.
California Museum of Photography, Riverside, CA
March 23 - July 6, 2013