St. Paul’s Chapel at Ground Zero by Larry Racioppo

Updated: Aug 23

September 3 through December 30, 2022

PHOTOGRAPHS

Racioppo’s color photographs document the transformation of St. Paul’s Chapel, the oldest church building in Manhattan, into a center of rest and refuge, and a living memorial to the lives lost on September 11, 2001. As recovery work began at GROUND ZERO just across the street, construction and sanitation workers, police, firefighters and National Guardsmen stopped by the chapel to rest and regroup. Long, exhausting shifts prevented many workers from going home, and the chapel opened its doors becoming a haven for them. volunteers served meals, gave out clothes, and set up beds in the choir loft. Professional therapists gave massages in George Washington’s original pew, and string quartets performed calming music. Huge banners and objects sent from around the country filled the Chapel’s interior, and its wrought-iron fence became a spontaneous memorial to the victims of the World Trade Center attack. Jan Ramirez, vice-president and director of the New York Historical Society’s museum, originally commissioned Larry to photograph St. Paul’s fence. He worked along the fence, from south to north on Broadway, making 13 sequential exposures with a 4x5 inch view camera. Ms. Ramirez extended the -3-commission to include the Chapel’s interior and the myriad activities taking place therein.


Larry Racioppo ( www.larryracioppo.com) was born and raised in South Brooklyn, and he has been photographing throughout New York City since 1971. A former VISTA volunteer and participant in the CETA Artists Project of New York City’s Cultural Council Foundation, Larry had his first solo exhibition in 1977 at Brooklyn’s f/stop Gallery. In 1980 Scribners published his first book of photographs, Halloween.


From 1989 until 2011, Larry was the official photographer for the New York City Department of Housing Preservation and Development, hired to document the city’s rebuilding of distressed neighborhoods, from Bed- ford-Stuyvesant to Harlem to the South Bronx. After receiving a Guggenheim Fellowship in photography in 1997, Racioppo took a leave from the HPD to work on a series of personal projects, including Forgotten Gateway: The Abandoned Buildings of Ellis Island, a traveling exhibition of his photographs that originated at the National Building Museum in Washington, DC.


The New York State Council on the Arts, the Queens Council on the Arts, and the Graham Foundation have supported his work. In 2006 he was awarded a National Endowment for the Arts Extraordinary Action Grant for The Word on the Street, an exhibition at the Museum of Biblical Art in New York. Racioppo’s photographs are in the collections of the Museum of the City of New York, the Brooklyn Museum, the New York Public Library, the Brooklyn Public Library, El Museo del Barrio, and the National September 11 Memorial & Museum.


His most recent photography books are BROOKLYN BEFORE (Cornell University Press, 2019), B-BALL NYC (South Brooklyn Boy Publishing, 2019). and CONEY ISLAND BABY (South Brooklyn Boy Publishing, 2021).


 

Larry Racioppo’s exhibit St. Paul’s Chapel at Ground Zero are color photographs that document the transformation of St. Paul’s Chapel post 911.

St. Paul’s is the oldest church in Manhattan located about a block from Ground Zero that miraculously stood in spite of the shattered earth that moved around it. As cleanup began and the search for bodies continued, police, firefighters, National Guards people, construction and sanitation workers stopped in the chapel to rest, regroup and nourish. Long, exhausting shifts stopped workers from traveling home and St. Paul’s became a haven to share meals with volunteers, get a change of clothes and even rest in the beds set up in the choir loft. Professional therapists gave massages in George Washington’s original pew, and string quartets performed calming music. Huge banners and objects sent from around the country filled the Chapel’s interior, and its wrought-iron fence became a spontaneous memorial to the victims of the World Trade Center attack. Jan Ramirez, vice-president and director of the New York Historical Society’s museum, originally commissioned Larry to photograph St. Paul’s fence. He worked along the fence, from south to north on Broadway, making 13 sequential exposures with a 4x5 inch view camera. Ms. Ramirez extended the -3-commission to include the Chapel’s interior and the myriad activities taking place therein.

Racioppo’s photographs document the people in this story. The spontaneous memorials that appeared on St. Paul’s fence are also part of this narrative. The memorials were outpourings of emotion expressing hope that perhaps these images hung on the fence of their loved ones might help to find them or bring home their remains. Accompanied with this exhibit is an essay by Amy Weinstein Director of Collections for the 911 Memorial and Museum in New York City. In it she expertly describes us back to the time that the photographs were taken. The power of the photographs and works are poignant as our shared memories are awoke. Where were you that day? And how do we keep the memory of those who perished alive with compassion and a commitment to keep this story in our minds? Larry Racioppo’s statements also included in this exhibit explain the challenge to access the area and the participants during the heightened security post 911 and the channels that were navigated in order to create this body of work.



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