World Trade Center photographs show transformation of site at a glance

Shai Kremer layered images of the WTC site to create her photographs.

Since 2001, New Yorkers have watched the World Trade Center site transform from a disaster zone to a gleaming testament to a resilient city.

At a new exhibition of photographs by Shai Kremer at Julie Saul Gallery in Chelsea, “World Trade Center: Concrete Abstract,” you can see that metamorphosis in a single glance.

Kremer, who lives in both New York and Israel, began taking photographs at the 16-acre site in 2011, witnessing through his lens over the next two years the steady growth of the shimmering towers there.

His technique of digitally layering those images on top of one another into spectacular mosaics gives viewers the chance to see that development for themselves, and in the process, to remember the tragedy that took place there.

His photographs will also be on display at the Museum of the City of New York, the Brooklyn Academy of Music, and The Bronx Museum of the Arts this month.

“It’s like you’re collecting from the past and present and then you’re creating another thing, a visual language that has a kind of futuristic feel,” he said.

In images as dizzyingly complex as they are beautiful, steel beams, men in hard hats, and construction equipment emerge from a maelstrom of hues and structures.

The result, according to a gallery statement, is something both “universal and personal,” a “post-traumatic” meditation on the passing of time and the healing of collective wounds.

Putting the images together over the years, Kremer said, was “more like painting than photography.” “You realize you need more of this color, this shape, so the next visit to the site you’re looking only for green things.”

The prints on display are as large as 12 feet across and staggering in their detail. Kremer said the images contain as many as 100 layers of 80 megapixel photographs, which was a “headache” to manage on his computer.

Look close enough, gallerist Julie Saul said, and you’ll see smaller images Kremer pulled from the public domain of the destruction and remains of the original buildings “very subtly woven in” to the composite images.

“It’s a recording of what’s happened there made into something that’s both really provocative and really pleasant to look at,” Saul said.


“World Trade Center: Concrete Abstract” opens Thursday at Julie Saul Gallery, 535 W 22nd St., 212-627-2410.

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