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The Most Controversial Photograph of 9/11

7 years ago


“It took me a while to understand that this was a very interesting, unusual way to approach such a horror, which was absolutely shocking for New York, for the world...” - Thomas Hoepker

It was the photo that caused an uproar. As the Twin Towers burned in the distance, clouds of grey smoke filling an otherwise perfect, sunny New York skyline, 5 friends lounge casually on the edge of a park in Brooklyn. Famed Magnum photographer Thomas Hoepker was there to capture a moment that would divide so many.

None of them seem to be aware of the horrific events unfolding behind them. Of course, that must not have been the case, but it’s the implication of this defiance and relaxed detachment towards the violence and death just across the water from these everyday New Yorkers, that caused so much shock and offence.

In a new video by British Journal of Photography, Hoepker speaks candidly about that day:

“... after I came with my day’s work to the Magnum office, I didn’t even show it to them. I didn’t show it to them for weeks or for months and even for a couple of years, because I felt it’s not the picture that shows the horror of this day. On the contrary, these people sitting there on the waterfront in Brooklyn, they look very peaceful, very relaxed, almost smiling, and just by incident there’s this strange black cloud in the background.”