A Cover for the Ages
Last week, during one of the worst storms in the city’s history, the staff at New York Magazine was relocated from their downtown offices, which had lost power, to a temporary office in midtown to produce its issue. At 3 p.m. on Tuesday, editor-in-chief Adam Moss called an emergency meeting to start brainstorming ideas to fill out a lineup for an issue that would go to press on Friday.
The challenge was to come up with an entire issue in 48 hours that would not only encompass different photographic approaches, but memorialize a moment in time. As director of photography Jody Quon started brainstorming photographers—work by Jeff Liao, Pari Dukovic, Joseph Rodriguez, Christopher Griffith and others would ultimately appear in the issue—she knew there was one picture that had to be made.
“We needed to show New York from the air,” she said. “We had to make that picture: the delineation of the lights on and off.”
On Wednesday, Quon called the Dutch photographer Iwan Baan on the off chance that he’d be in New York. (He is based in Amsterdam). Baan is a superb photographer of urban architecture from all perspectives, including the air. They had worked together for the first time a few weeks earlier; his work first appeared in New York’s Oct. 7 issue on Urban Global Design.
Quon and Baan connected around 4 p.m. on Wednesday. In an email from Haiti this morning, he wrote “Getting to the heliport and getting a car and gas was the most difficult! It was an hour flight to Manhattan, one hour over the city and another hour back, freezing cold, without doors in the heli.”
It takes superb skill to make a picture over the city, out of a helicopter in pitch blackness. How did he do it? “I’ve done this shot of Manhattan many times. So I knew how I wanted to show the two cities,” he wrote. “A pitch black Manhattan and a vivid and thriving city. At the bottom left you see the glowing Goldman Sachs building and WTC (a construction site with power where the rest of Manhattan doesn’t have it!) under construction. I think it shows what’s wrong with the country now also—a crumbling infrastructure and the place where, literally, the power is and who’s prepared”.
The resulting photograph, which came through to Quon and her team on Thursday night, was magical. “We knew we had something to place in the cover template,” she said.
It’s rare to see a view of Manhattan that is so evocative and so new—a single image of the city that tells so many stories. This picture was taken in a moment of crisis for New York, but it will become one of the most iconic, most timeless photographs of the city.
—Kira Pollack Director of Photography, TIME, Nov. 5, 2012
Read more about the cover on NYMag.com.