Professor Donates Photographs to September 11 Memorial and Museum

TEANECK, N.J. (Sept. 9, 2010) — David Hanson, professor of art at Fairleigh Dickinson University, has donated nearly two dozen historic aerial photographs of the World Trade Center to the National September 11 Memorial and Museum.

 In 1993 and 1994, Hanson rented a helicopter in order to take the finely detailed black-and-white images with a handheld 8x10 view camera. With support from the 9/11 museum and FDU, Hanson has produced from his negatives 20 16-by-20-inch prints and high-quality digital scans, which were delivered to the institution last month.

Jan Seidler Ramirez, chief curator of the National September 11 Memorial and Museum, called the photographs “breathtaking.” They will help museum visitors, many of them unfamiliar with the site before its destruction, understand how the towers dominated Manhattan, she said. In a 2009 letter to FDU, Ramirez wrote that Hanson’s images “articulate the soaring thrust of the Twin Towers, the breadth of the World Trade Center campus and its former centrality within the Lower Manhattan cityscape.”

Portions of the September 11 Memorial are expected to open at Ground Zero next year on the 10th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks, with the museum opening to follow in 2012. Ramirez said the institution will use Hanson’s high-resolution digital files to produce images as needed for exhibitions and will archive his original prints for special uses.

Hanson, who has taught at FDU since 1972, specializes in landscape photography. For a project to photograph the high arctic in Greenland in the late 1980s, he had a custom-built 8x10 wide-angle camera made. A few years later, Hanson decided to use the camera to photograph Manhattan from the air, creating negatives that could be enlarged to a grand scale — as large as 8 feet by 10 feet, without losing quality — to give the viewer “the feeling that they were standing in the air from that vantage point.”

But after the terror attacks in 2001, Hanson believed that few people were interested in his Twin Towers images. The negatives languished until Hanson’s wife, Kay, suggested in 2008 that he show some prints to the 9/11 museum curator. From that meeting, the museum agreed to help Hanson with the expenses of making digital scans and prints of 10 negatives; a grant-in-aid from FDU allowed Hanson to scan and print an additional 10 negatives.

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