WHEN the 9/11 attacks took place, I thought of this photograph. I’d taken it many years before — on my first visit to New York, in 1961, in fact — but I looked for it anyway. It reminded me of Lower Manhattan, the twin towers, and then, of course, of their absence.
The view is from the back of the Staten Island Ferry. I remember it as the first all-American moment of my life, looking at the Statue of Liberty while eating a hot dog. I also remember the Financial District skyline, which appeared to me to be forlorn and empty, as if you could feel the buildings that were supposed to be there but weren’t.
I’d come to the city from Oklahoma and I was on my way to Europe. Then, as now, New York seemed a delicious place to visit, but not somewhere I could live. It was too big, too expensive, too accelerated. There was no way I could carry a two-by-four across town.
But it was an inspiration. I walked around with my Yashica camera, filled with black and white film, shooting whatever interested me: bricks, the street in front of my hotel on 34th Street, the old-fashioned scissor fence in this picture.
For me, it’s that scissor-gate on the back of the ferry that dates the image. It comes from another time. A slice of history that goes way back.
But everything else seems modern, up-to-date. When I look at the picture, which is over my desk in Los Angeles, I look for the towers, even though I know it’s impossible for them to be there. It’s hard to look at a photograph of that part of the city, no matter when it was taken, and not want to see them.