September 11, 2001: Telling Stories Visually: `What Moved Me Was a Sense of a Life Being Transformed by an Experience in a Way That There Was No Going Back.' (Coverage of Terrorism)

By Turnley, Peter | Nieman Reports, Winter 2001 | Go to article overview

September 11, 2001: Telling Stories Visually: `What Moved Me Was a Sense of a Life Being Transformed by an Experience in a Way That There Was No Going Back.' (Coverage of Terrorism)


Turnley, Peter, Nieman Reports


Photographer Peter Turnley was in Cambridge, Massachusetts on the morning of September 11. Having used his camera during the past two decades to tell stories about conflict and refugees, about natural disasters and human revolutions, Turnley, a 2001 Nieman Fellow and Pulitzer Prize-winning photo journalist, knew he had to get to the site of the World Trade Center attack. He shared with current Nieman Fellows his story of how he came to be one of the only photographers to capture images of the catastrophic devastation through the night of September 11 and into the dawn of the next morning. He also spoke about the role visual representation plays in helping us try to comprehend the toll of this experience on people who have been touched most directly by it. Excerpts from his remarks accompany a gallery of photographs Turnley took during 10 days he spent near Ground Zero.

I'm very passionate about visual storytelling. Always have been, and I don't miss any occasion to promote the power of visual storytelling because in journalism, particularly when it comes to photography, it's a bit of a service industry, often used to illustrate words. I feel very strongly that when photography is well done, it can be a very full-bodied compliment to words as a form of storytelling and communication. To those who work in newspapers and magazines and who are not photographers, try to think of visual storytelling in a different way.

I knew this was going to be a tough logistical story to cover. I figured Manhattan would be closed off, and I was going to be late. Journalists know what it feels like to be late on a story, but that's often a misnomer because there is no time frame. When I left for New York, I told myself, "You're definitely not early here, not with a city full of photographers." But this story was going to be around for a long time. Particularly in war situations, the most important pictures are not in the midst of the bang-bang; they are after the battle when one sees the human impact.

As I am driving, I'm imagining what this is going to be like, what it is going to look like. I'd covered four earthquakes, so I had a sense of that, but each time I heard the news on the radio ("Today, planes have hit the World Trade Center, another has hit the Pentagon, and another plane has crashed in Pennsylvania."), it would hit me and I'd think, this is just unbelievable. That was really an important part of that drive down for me, that notion of incomprehensibility.

It's now about five p.m., I'm in Man hattan, and it's getting dark. Manhattan was like a ghost town; there were no cars on the road. I drive toward the World Trade Center, and I get to a point where I can't go any further and start to see television satellite trucks and lights about 15 blocks from Ground Zero. And nobody can go beyond this point. So I put my cameras under my dark coat and try to walk past some policeman. I get about 10 yards past and somebody says, "Hey, stop. What are you doing?" He brings me back to the barrier. I start to think about how I am going to get to where I need to be. I don't feel like because I'm in New York City, with American laws, that my sense of purpose in needing to document what has happened is going to change any more than if I was in Ceaucescu's Romania trying to show what oppression looks like there. It looks dark to my left, so I started kind of going around streets, heading east. I get to a place where ambulances and fire trucks and rescue workers and police cars are going. I start to walk that way, and I don't want to blow it because, as I say to myself, "I'm getting real close. This is not the time to get thrown out of here." At one corner where there were a lot of policemen, I hid underneath an awning and just watched what was going on for about a half an hour. I didn't see a single cameraman or photographer or journalist. But I did see two people wearing fire and police jackets with cameras so I asked them whether there were any photographers at the site. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

September 11, 2001: Telling Stories Visually: `What Moved Me Was a Sense of a Life Being Transformed by an Experience in a Way That There Was No Going Back.' (Coverage of Terrorism)
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Help
Full screen

matching results for page

    Questia reader help

    How to highlight and cite specific passages

    1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
    2. Click or tap the last word you want to select, and you’ll see everything in between get selected.
    3. You’ll then get a menu of options like creating a highlight or a citation from that passage of text.

    OK, got it!

    Cited passage

    Style
    Citations are available only to our active members.
    Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

    1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

    Cited passage

    Thanks for trying Questia!

    Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

    Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

    Buy instant access to save your work.

    Already a member? Log in now.

    Author Advanced search

    Oops!

    An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.