Just as the Civil War was the first major event documented by the new medium of photography, September 11 was extensively covered digitally
David Allison's recent blog post explaining the upcoming commemoration ends with the question, "How did September 11 change your life?" As a professional, it sent me off into a new collecting area. Just as the Civil War was the first major event documented by the new medium of photography, September 11 was extensively covered digitally. Here in the Photographic History collection, gathering images for the museum and Bearing Witness to History (the museum's first anniversary exhibition displayed in 2002), we quickly learned that September 11 was also a story about the history of digital photography.
The digital photographs that Reuters photographer Tim Shaffer made were transmitted back to his office via his cell phone; it's common practice now to use your cell phone to both make and send photographs, but that wasn't the case in 2001. Michael Garcia had access to quality technology and a prime location taking nearly a thousand digital photographs of the Pentagon; that's hardly a drop of data on your portable USB drive now. Here is New York, a gallery of actual images that later became a website, demonstrated what would happen now via Flickr or some other social media site that allows thousands of individuals to contribute, view, and share images.
Since then, I've been collecting the history of digital photography including Nash Edition's IRIS printer, five years' worth of holiday cards and newsletters showing improved quality and increased use of amateur digital photography, a digital darkroom and works by John Paul Caponigro, and a number of other cameras and digitally produced images.
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This post was first published on the National Museum of American History's O Say Can You See? blog.
Images: 1. Pentagon/Michael Garcia; 2. Shanksville, Pennsylvania/Tim Shaffer.