Ten Years in Tribeca: A Photographer’s Tribute

On the cover: The Municipal Arts Society's "Tribute in Light" (9/11/07). Click to enlarge

I last posted about photographer Donna Ferrato two years ago, when the New York Times ran a slideshow of her “10013” series about the neighborhood. I loved her work, so when Keri Kunzle at Maslow 6 suggested I write about Ferrato’s new book, I was all over it. Ferrato graciously agreed to answer a few questions and lend some images from the book, Donna Ferrato: Tribeca 9.11.01 / 9.11.11. It’s currently available as a pre-order for $75 at donnaferrato.com; all pre-order copies will be signed. A limited edition of 50 slip-covered books will also be produced ($895); they include an 11″ x 14″ custom silver gelatin print of the Ladder No. 8 photo you see below.

1. How long have you lived in Tribeca?
Circa 1997.

2. How did the Tribeca 9.11.01 / 9.11.11 book come about?
The collection of photographs in my Tribeca book drives from an action packed decade living in the heart of NYC’s oldest neighborhood. The book begins on the morning of the attack on 9.11 and closes with Obama’s visit to the police/horse stables and Ladder House 8 after his mission to kill OBL. Those are the only two color images. The larger body images are black and white shot on Tri-X film, not documentary style or politically conceptual whatsoever. Nuanced images about the golden phoenix rising.

3. You presumably had thousands of images to choose from. Is there anything that unifies the ones that made the final cut?
What unifies the photographs in this book is a single philosophy—enjoy life, spread the love, work hard, play hard.

4. The neighborhood has changed quite a bit in the past 10 years. Are you concerned that its photographic qualities are diminishing in some way?
Yes, I’m freaking about everything we are losing even shocked how it often happens in front of our eyes. Since 9/11 I’m terrified to leave Tribeca. Do you believe me? I get nightmares about missing a day of life in Tribeca. For instance forget about the Hurricane Irene warnings, no way I would obey the Mayor. I wanted to be here. I’m always thinking how to frame things, people against the pull of the tide. I got a very symbolic image that morning (8/27) when Irene blew in like a sweet old lady. No, really, I’m not worried about “photographic qualities diminishing”—the light off the Hudson River will always be helping me to create more lovely images than I found yesterday. The landscape and the people’s faces will keep changing, getting older, and that’s what I love the most. Change is where it’s at. And that’s why photography will always matter to me.

5. Is there anyone or anyplace in Tribeca you haven’t shot but would love to? (Personally, I’m dying to get into the AT&T Long Lines Building….)
Someday I hope to see Edward Albee and make a frame around his craggy face. I’d love to get on top of the AT&T Long Lines Building any day. Let’s do it!

Here’s a sample of the book, a mix of images and actual pages. I heartily recommend you click to enlarge.

Honoring the Dead, Ladder 8 Firehouse (9/11/08).


From left: Franklin Station (2008); Liquor Store (2006).


34 Leonard Street (2008).


Amber and the Last Relic of El Teddy’s (2009).


From left: Mr. Chow (2010); Square Diner (2006).


Leila Ladder 8 Firehouse (2009).


Provenzano Garage Vintage Sign (2007).


1 Comment

  1. Donna,

    Not likely you’ll read this message but I caught hold of your spirit in that interview. Not sure of the difficulty of accessing the AT&T long lines building rooftop but whatever the challenge, you’ll face it head on.

    I plan to have your book among us and our photo of Nikko will be dusted off, framed, and hang in a place of prominence. You are such an inspiration.

    With great admiration,

    Dave Smith