For those grappling with how to commemorate the one-year anniversary of the 9/11 terrorist attack, we have a suggestion: Consider visiting Florida Atlantic University's Ritter Gallery.
Wednesday, the gallery unveils the South Florida premiere of "Here Is New York: A Democracy of Photographs," a collection of 190 powerful and poignant snapshots directly related to the World Trade Center tragedy. Before the exhibit officially opens at noon, Boca Raton Mayor Steven Abrams will appear at a remembrance ceremony.
Although the Ritter exhibit is only a cross-section of the complete exhibit, which was shown in New York City and includes more than 7000 images, it still carries a powerful punch.
Attached to metal wires by clips and hanging across walls and ceilings, the stark, anonymous images offer such authentic and disturbing glimpses of the event and the ensuing destruction that one is left speechless, immersed in disbelief at the tragedy's magnitude.
The show was initiated by four New York City photojournalists and writers shortly after September 11 as a community-based photographic exhibition. The four aimed to collect, organize, display, and preserve the broadest possible view of the event and its aftermath for historical purposes.
Images were donated by anyone and everyone -- amateur and professional photographers, emergency personnel, tourists, shopkeepers, cabdrivers, and NYC residents. The pictures were digitally scanned, archivally printed, and displayed anonymously at a small storefront on Prince Street in SoHo. They sold for $25 apiece. The organization raised more than $500,000 in the first few weeks, with net proceeds going to a Children's Aid Society fund to benefit the thousands of children who are among the most affected victims of the catastrophe.
The exhibition is subtitled "A Democracy of Photographs" because anyone who has taken pictures relating to the tragedy was invited to contribute his or her images to the show and because all images are accepted in a truly democratic fashion: based on their merit and relevance rather than on the photographer's name.
This is not a conventional gallery show. It is a display tailored to the nature of the event and to the response it has elicited. It comes as no surprise, then, that the Ritter Gallery, with its penchant for offbeat and experimental art, was drawn to this exhibit. Though it is not related to cutting-edge trends in art, says gallery director Rod Faulds, it does reflect the human response to the tragedy through art and in an unusual fashion. And in a way, it's as close as you can get to Ground Zero without hopping on a plane.