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Sunday, 21 September 2008


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This man will be remembered by history in a very powerful way. The truth in photography is witnessing, no matter how wonderful or tragic the event. Countless photographers have died in the act of being an eye witness and we benefit by having the images to make up our own opinions. 911 was a catastrophic event and for me books like this and the Bruce springsteen album "The Rising" make it real and unforgettable in our lives.

You think Americans would be complaining about the injustice done many 9/11 volunteers who are now slowly dying without the benefits of proper medical care...

sadly, this kind of criticism bestowed on Mr. Botte (being sarcastic) is endemic of the poisonous atmosphere of "debate" for transforming ideas into only BW (no pun intended) and discarding a lot of subtlety and nuance. It seems that finding out information is beneath these "debaters." No longer are the days good for wearing one's heart on one's sleeve.

Photographers can't win, can they?

This post reminded me of another rather interesting book on the subject - "New York September 11" by Magnum Photographers. It also appears to have been remaindered as I picked up a copy for $6.99 Canadian when I was in Cole's in Halifax, NS recently.


Is outrage so depreciated that we can misdirect it to a courageous photographer doing his job?

Where is the outrage at the lies that got us into the Iraq war? Or at the knuckleheads who deregulated us into the current financial meltdown? Or at those who attacked us on 9/11, and those others who ignored the warning of the first WTC attack instead of building up our defenses against it happening again?

I am grateful to (and in awe of) John Botte for his commitment and courage, as I am to Joel Meyerowitz, Robert Capa, Ernest Withers, Susan Meiselas, and so many other photographers over the last 150+ years of photographic history who have put themselves at risk to show us who we are and point the way to what we might become.

Bought mine. Thanks for bringing it to our attention, and the link.

What was the controversy about?


What specifically annoys me is that someone like John Botte, who is not profiting in any meaningful way from the tragedy, is pilloried, while those who exploit 9/11 for political ends don't catch much at all.

Hear, hear.

I'm with Matthew Brown. Countless billions of dollars have flowed into already-deep pockets as a direct result of this event. Those who would offer criticism of Mr. Botte for this book (a) don't understand that fact, and (b) don't realize how little money really is made from photo books.

Thanks for bringing John Botte and his book to my attention. People who usually deprecate others like Mr. Botte and his accomplishments are usually those who sit on the sidelines and throw poison darts from there. Why don't they use that energy to get into the game and take the risks others do.

That's why I love ya, Mike.

I don't understand why anyone would deprecate a photographer from making a living shooting meaningful images that elevate in a difficult time. And one camera does not a profiteer make. Nor one book, nor one lifetime spent risking one's life for one's message.

Criticizing this brave photographer for taking these pictures is like saying the New York Times 'profited' from reporting on the tragedy because they sold more copies of their newspaper.

That's insanity. It's their job to tell us and show us what happened.

Earlier someone posted about Springsteen's song "The Rising." Artists, regardless of their talent, will and should always react to events good or bad. That's what they do.

Sometimes I become very frustrated by what our country has become and how we continue to belittle artists. Are artists that much of a threat to those in power?

Oh, wait, I think I just answered my own question.

I met John Botte at the Leica Historical Society of America annual meeting in Williamsburg VA a few years ago. It was obvious that he was very passionate about his work as he was almost brought to tears several times during his presentation and appeared to be in constant pain from his illness. His only crime was that he was asked to tell a story and he told it better than most.

I agree with the comments on how badly the responders are being treated. So many received millions for their losses, and the men who worked to recover and restore are being neglected. I admire Mr. Botte. Thanks for notice that this work is going out of print. I ordered my copy. I also have Mr. Meyerowitz's book.

Well I'm offended. Aftermath is the name of the last great Rolling Stones album.

"Where is the outrage at the lies that got us into the Iraq war? Or at the knuckleheads who deregulated us into the current financial meltdown? Or at those who attacked us on 9/11, and those others who ignored the warning of the first WTC attack instead of building up our defenses against it happening again?"

Just to keep things in perspective; I never heard of John Botte's ordeal, let alone this book, to be honest, until reading this post. On the other hand, I have heard a lot of outrage about Iraq, corporate abuse, and so on.

That said, I might just pick up the book during my return home; I am curious, did the criticism come from the public, newspaper editors and media pundits, or other photographers?

I don't know the whole story chapter and verse, but the City of New York at least threatened to sue Botte over ownership of the pictures (and may have actually done so), claiming that since he took them on City time, they belonged to the City; the controversy was of sufficiently high profile that Mayor Bloomberg was quoted in the press weighing in on the matter. The City demanded that all profits from the book be turned over to a NYPD charity. Legal experts are apparently divided as to the merits of such a suit, since then-Commissioner Kerik had allegedly instructed other officers, and Botte on other occasions, to do essentially private work on City time, and insisted in this case that Botte use only his own equipment and do his own processing, i.e., not charge either to the City.

Subsequently, and more or less separately, bitter complaints about the commemorative Leica (which was CNC-carved out of a solid block of titanium, had "NYPD" embossed in the covering, and was to sell for well upwards of $100,000) caused Leica to withdraw the product. However, at least one was presented to Botte for his work and there are probably several in circulation.

The above is "to the best of my knowledge." I haven't researched the whole story extensively and would not publish the above statements in print without further fact-checking.

Mike J.

It's a sad state of affairs...

For those who are interested, there are lots of copies available at: www.abebooks.com.

This fellow was there, shot the way he knew he should shoot and after all is said and done, the only thing that will remain are his images. The images are his legacy, not that they were taken with a Leica on city time.

I had to pay 12.99 for mine. Does this mean you (MJ) will be sending me a check for the difference? Or if the book is as powerful as I expect it may be I will owe you the difference from the original list price? Thanks for the great ideas.

All we have left of what happened on that day is testimony and any pictures that were taken. Any anti-photography nonsense just feeds into conspiracy theories.

All we have of the JFK assassination is the Zapruder film and even then there are conspiracy theories galore.

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