Homage To 9/11 – “Looking On, Watching the Building of the Freedom Tower”


Every day, thousands of tourists take snapshots of the World Trade Center site in Manhattan’s busy Financial District, where the cloud-piercing One World Trade Center tower has been under construction since 2006. But it’s rare that these camera-wielding visitors get photographed themselves. In his series Looking On: Watching the Building of the Freedom Towers, photographer Keith Goldstein becomes a spectator of spectators, capturing tourists’ unguarded facial expressions as they stare skyward—mouths agape, necks stretched, contemplating the significance of the immense silver skyscraper before them.

“This project sort of appeared out of my lunchtime photo walks,” Goldstein tells Co.Design. He works as a photo editor near the World Trade Center site, and found himself drawn to its visitors. “My intention was to capture a thought-provoking collection of expressions, emotions, and the diverse ethnic make-up of the visitors,” he says, “to see how they reacted to what they were seeing—a place where people perished and a new place that was being rebuilt out of the ruins.”

The series stems from a deep personal place: Goldstein lives, works, and is raising his son with his wife in New York City. “I had friends who worked there prior to 9/11, friends whom I would visit there when I found myself downtown,” he says. “I also had a couple of acquaintances who perished in the attack. I knew quite a few people who had friends and family working there at that time, who lost their lives.”

Goldstein also witnessed the events of 9/11. “After the first was tower struck, I headed downtown to see firsthand what was happening,” he tells The Inspired Eye in an interview. “During that time, the second tower was struck… When the towers began to fall, I, along with others around me, just ran as far as we could.” It takes courage to confront such a personal and national trauma in art, and Goldstein’s work adds to the evolving photographic legacy of this tragedy from a new and poignant perspective.

Please see my interview for Time Magazine – http://time.com/3329648/photography-world-trade-center-tourists-keith-goldstein/

All images can be seen here – http://www.pbase.com/keithbg/looking_on&page=all

I have been trying to have a book published or at least an exhibition of these images, but so far, nothing.

I have been criticized repeatedly for this project. Often quite cruelly, “Why would you take pictures looking up people’s noses?”, “I could have done a better job.”, “These images are meaningless.”, “What are they looking at?”, etc., etc.

I keep posting this project every 9/11, hoping that with time, people will see and feel what I did.

Published by Keith Goldstein

Photographer, husband, dad, and passionate cyclist. Lives and works in New York City.

8 thoughts on “Homage To 9/11 – “Looking On, Watching the Building of the Freedom Tower”

  1. In a project, especially one like this, there will always be critics. Chances are they will also be the first to talk about how much they have loved this from the start. Yeah, I am still a cranky New Yorker at heart. People though we were crazy when we sold everything and moved to the SC lowcountry swamp areas. It’s what you do 😀😀. Publish, not published, at the end it will be what you wanted…I’m done now

  2. Everyone is a critic! Burns my hide, too. I think this is such a huge project that should have been published a long time ago, Keith. The right person is not seeing this. Absolutely beautiful.

      1. Oh, Keith–south FL got it so bad. I am up in NW FL–the Panhandle. Our schools are closed to accommodate those who need shelter. Such a bad one for south Florida. So glad your family was able to get out. Keep trying with this project–it’s a good one!

  3. Way to go, Keith! I like your NY Times interview too.

    Of course it’s a smart project.

    Unfortunately, you’re bound to get people who won’t get it. That’s life. That’s even what you’re shooting. All they’ll see is nostrils. Not the expressions that indicate that there’s hope for a better tomorrow in spite of a terrible past. You can expect those people to be as jaded about other aspects of life or even their own lives, as they are about your photography.

    Rest assured that besides them, there are those of us who understand and appreciate what you are recording. It matters not just to you but to us.

    Even without our encouragement we know that you’ll press on but we will encourage you to still.

    1. Allen, thanks so much for your words! I can’t tell you how I appreciate them, especially at this time. I’m so glad that you know and understand the difficulty in the continued process of doing work, making imagery. Someday I hope that this project does get to be published. It was a labor of love, a dedication and homage to the city and people where I live. Thank you, thank you, thank you….

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