NY 10048: The World Trade Centre in Early 1990s

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 11 September, 2011, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 11 September, 2011, 12:00am


NY 10048: The World Trade Centre in Early 1990s
Gretchen So
Fringe Club and Foreign Correspondents' Club

Hong Kong photographer Gretchen So was in New York City on September 11, 2001. That morning, the Columbia University graduate was in her Manhattan home when she received a phone call from her flatmate asking her to turn on the television. 'I couldn't believe my eyes. I kept changing channels. I thought it was some kind of joke. But every channel was showing the same thing,' she says.

On the screen were images of two planes crashing into the Twin Towers of New York's World Trade Centre. The planes had been hijacked by al-Qaeda terrorists. Passengers and office workers died as the planes smashed through the walls. Thousands more were killed as the buildings collapsed.

So, who remained in New York until 2003, never ventured near the area - postal code NY 10048 - again. 'I felt the World Trade Centre was like a friend. And when you have a friend who passes away, it makes you feel very sad, heartbroken,' she says. Ten years on, So decided to commemorate not only the events of September 11, 2001, but also the World Trade Centre - particularly its iconic Twin Towers - with an exhibition in two neighbouring venues showing photographs she had taken before the tragedy.

Featuring 36 images in total, her exhibition 'NY 10048: The World Trade Centre in Early 1990s' features 21 of her photographs on show at the Fringe Club and 15 at the Foreign Correspondents' Club. When So was studying at the University of Manitoba in Canada (from 1989 to 1993, and again in the summer of 1995), she spent holidays with her sister who was living in the Battery Park City area of New York.

The pair would spend a lot of time in the nearby World Trade Centre complex, particularly the shopping mall in the basement concourse, which ran down to a Port Authority train station the pair frequently used.

Initially, So says, she took the World Trade Centre for granted, artistically and otherwise. But, then, 'when I started exploring New York City, I started realising that no matter where I go, wherever I went, I would always see the World Trade Centre'.

Intrigued, So embarked on a personal project involving taking photographs of the World Trade Centre from a variety of angles and locations, including as far as 13km away, at a cemetery on 39th Place and 51st Avenue in Queens.

Between 1991 and 1993, she took approximately 300 photographs in various parts of New York and the surrounding area, including Jersey City, New Jersey, featuring the World Trade Centre. All of them are in black and white. 'I felt that [monochromatic images] gave off an air of mystery, timelessness, class and romance,' she says.

So talks about how certain photographs gave her an eerie feeling, especially those that seem to presage the events of 9/11. One shows a helicopter flying near the Twin Towers.

Nonetheless, she hopes that the exhibition shows the buildings she grew to love as she remembers them: 'Omnipresent, monumental, timeless, inspirational and romantic.'

Mon-Sat, noon-10pm, Fringe Club, 2 Lower Albert Rd, Central. Inquiries: 2521 7251. Ends September 15. Also: daily, 10am-noon, 3pm-5.30pm, Foreign Correspondents' Club, 2 Lower Albert Rd, Central. Inquiries: 2521 1511. Ends September 29