7 YouTube Videos Highlighting the Role of Photography on 9/11

Photography has played a crucial role in helping people remember and learn about 9/11.

Another year has passed us by, but memories and feelings remain the same. The September 11 attacks are still the most impactful, talked about, and polarizing event in modern history. The role of photography on that day allowed people to see the pain felt by millions of people in New York and around the world. Some images have, unfortunately, become iconic. And they serve to help us remember, while teaching younger generations of the heartbreak felt by the western world. In this piece, we’re going to combine photography with video, as we turn to YouTube to remind ourselves of the importance of photography almost 20 years ago.

YouTube has opened the world to more in-depth perspectives of world events. Photography, and everything that comes with it, has been able to benefit from the online content platform. It has allowed photographers to speak more clearly about their work, and enabled consumers to gain a better understanding.

In line with today’s remembrance of 9/11, we’ve put together a collection of the best video content that focuses on the photographers and the photographs taken.

1. 9/11 Photography

The first video featured doesn’t include a photographer who was responsible for an iconic photo or a feature in a large publication. But it’s still important, especially to junior photographers and students.

Michael Koehler was a college freshman at the time, and September 11, 2001, was his first day at New York University. Roaming the streets with his camera, hoping to photograph some Reneannce art, he soon found himself immersed in the terror facing New York City. His photos may not be amongst the elite, but they serve a purpose. Not only do they teach you about 9/11, but they also remind any young or experienced photographer about the importance of always carrying your camera.

2. The Falling Man

The Falling Man is arguable the most iconic photo from 9/11. It sums up the terrifying situation people faced while stuck in the towers – burn or jump – in one single photo.

Photographer Richard Drew sat down with TIME Magazine, to talk about his experience on the ground and to share the story behind the photo. The lesson in this video is invaluable. It highlights the difficulties of photojournalism—how photographers have to focus on their job while being amongst disaster. More so, it gives you a glimpse into the selection process that editors and publications go through when choosing the most powerful photography. Although under tragic circumstances, they got it right with this one, as it continues to create emotion 20 years later.

3. AFP Photographer Stan Honda

Then AFP photographer, Stan Honda, takes a few minutes to revisit his perspective of photographing the World Trade Center’s attack. On a day he describes as “terrifying,” Honda talks about getting lost in the moment and zoning in on making photos.

Two of his images of people caught in the debris now exist in the 9/11 Memorial Museum. Because of that, Honda feels a great sense of pride for his involvement in documenting that day. He also speaks of how, after such a long time, he no longer sees them as subjects, but rather what they always were, humans.

4. Rare and Resilient

New York City was at the center of the terrorist attacks. But, further south, in Washington D.C, was another attack on The Pentagon.

Unlike the WTC, little footage exists of the plane that flew towards The Pentagon. We know it happened, but the emotional response has never been the same. Photojournalist, John Harrington, was able to gain rare access to the site, which was quickly closed down after the impact. Because of this, he was able to create photographs that most other photographers were unable to. This short video gives you a unique insight and gives Harrington the opportunity to explain how he approached photographing the aftermath of the crash.

Harrington has since donated all his photos from 9/11 to the Smithsonian Museum.

5. Milwaukee Journal Sentinel (MJS) Photographer

MJS photojournalist Rick Wood is considered to be responsible for some of the earliest photos taken in New York City on 9/11.

The five-minute video highlights how diverse and unpredictable a working day can be for a photojournalist. Wood was originally in NYC to photograph the Mercedez Bence Fashion Week. On the morning of September 11, however, he received a call from his editor, there was a change in plan. Asked to go towards the WTC, confused, Wood allowed his instincts to take over. Wood speaks in great detail about the noises, smells, and scenes he witnessed. As he goes through his photos, he explains how this was his first time covering such a tragedy. It’s an experience that’s, of course, stayed with him.

6. Images of 9/11: Todd Maisel (Warning Graphic)

In this emotional video, photographer Todd Maisel explains how he broke down in tears when photographing NYC. He takes us through each of his most significant photos and gives a detailed explanation of what each of them represents.

People may find some of the images too graphic and disturbing to look at. But in context, they highlight just how difficult it was for everyone involved. We don’t wish to speak on behalf of Maisel, but from our perspective, we feel the video shows that he still wears the emotional and mental impact of 9/11.

We were unable to embed this video, however, you can watch it in full here.

7. Donna Spera on her Iconic 9/11 photo

As photographers, we can often be guilty of seeing the people we photograph solely as subjects. In regards to photojournalism, it many ways it’s a necessary part of the job. If they humanize too much at the moment, it can interfere in the way they make their photos.

But we wanted to finish the piece by taking the focus away from the photographers and putting it on those who were photographed. Dona Spera talks about how she broke down in tears when she found out her image had been published worldwide. Of course, documenting is important, but it doesn’t mean it has no impact on those involved in the images.

This video is a good insight into how it feels to be a photographer’s subject, especially on a day that broke so many hearts and minds.

A Thank You to Photographers

Amongst the many heroes born out of that day are brave, hard working photographers who played their part in telling this important story. Photojournalists seldom have the opportunity to walk away. They put their life on the line in order to ensure the world’s largest events are recorded. Alongside all the other people who stepped up that day, we would like to say thank you to all photographers who were out on the ground, helping to preserve history.

Lead image is a screenshot.

Dan Ginn

Dan Ginn is a content writer and journalist. He brings with him five years' experience writing in the photographic niche. During that time he has worked with a range of leading brands, as well as a host professional photographers within the industry.