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About The Project

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The September 11 Photo Project began as a community response to the tragic events of September 11, 2011. The Project grew out of a desire to preserve the culture of the outdoor, makeshift shrines that sprang up in public squares and in front of firehouses throughout the city. Anyone wishing to participate was invited to give up to three photographs with accompanying text, which were hung in a donated gallery space.

The Project’s philosophy was simple: To display without exception every set of photos and written statements that are submitted, and to welcome all those who wish to view them. The Project is unique in its approach—each participant, not the organizers, selects the pieces that are displayed, and all are included in the firm belief that no entry is better than any other.

The response has been overwhelming. In the three months the exhibition was in downtown New York City, the Project grew from a handful of participants to hundreds of amateur and professional photographers from all over the world, ranging in age from 7 to 85—many with only a casual interest in photography or art, but all seeking to heal themselves and others through expression.

Following the exhibition on Wooster Street in New York City, the Project was shown in six other locations. The Project toured seven cities over two years, collected photographs from more than 700 participants, and had over 300,000 visitors over its run. What started as an effort to create a community space to preserve the culture of the outdoor shrines evolved into a multifaceted experience. The Project can be viewed as an emotional relief effort that complements the work of traditional relief groups, as well as an important historical body of photos and stories, as a community building catalyst, and as a collective project of art and self-expression.

In the future, it will likely be used to study what happened on that day in September and those that followed. In a sense, the Project is the second phase of a process of mourning, healing, and memorializing September 11—the first phase being the impromptu memorials that sprang up around the city, and the final phase being the permanent memorials that are currently in the planning stages in New York and Washington.

The September 11 Photo Project is a Fiscal Sponsor project of the Lower Manhattan Cultural Council, a 501(c)(3) organization that provides support for individual artists and arts organizations while fostering public participation in the arts through free events in the performing, visual and new media arts.

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