By Ted Waddell
HURLEYVILLE August 5, 2003 Photographer Jonathan Hyman of Smallwood is on a mission to create a visual history.
Its not an easy mission, though, since hes focusing on the American peoples outpouring of grief, faith and rage in the wake of the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks on the Twin Towers of the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, and the heroic acts aboard Flight 93 that foiled what is believed to have been a planned strike against the nations capital.
On a recent Tuesday, Hyman presented a talk and slide show of a few of his more than 12,000 images documenting the countrys reaction to the attacks. Held at the Sullivan County Museum in Hurleyville, Americans Converse was sponsored by the Delaware-Hudson Photographers Society.
He photographed the peoples sorrow, patriotism and anger, said LaVerne Black, one of the founders and current co-presidents of the local photographers association. It is Americas response to what happened on September 11, 2001.
On September 12, 2001, the day after the terrorist attacks, when people began hanging flags and decorating their property with handmade flags, art and slogans, I knew what I was looking at, he said.
Before beginning his presentation, Hyman told the audience to take your politics and park it somewhere else by way of introducing his often in-your-face images of peoples incredible outpouring of angst and emotion.
Since September 12, 2001, I have been traveling with my camera every day, photographing the eccentric and heartfelt ways people have been displaying their sorrow, patriotism, anger and in some cases, wish for peace, war or revenge, he said. What I have documented is touching, poignant, and not always pleasant.
This stuff has become part of the fabric of our lives, added Hyman.
Although he chose not to extensively document the thousands of highly personalized handmade missing posters of the lost that sprang up overnight around the smoking ruins of the World Trade Center, Hyman cut to the quick when summarizing his feelings.
They were made by people who knew their loved ones werent coming out of those Twin Towers, he said. It was hope against hope.
Several of his images showed the quirkiness of America.
A Wanted Dead or Alive poster featuring a picture of Osama bin Laden took center stage in a window alongside a flyer advertising Babysitter Wanted.
Outside Lake Huntington, a sign read, Hey Bin Laden, the Hammers Coming Down. Compliments of the United States Special Forces.
While many graffiti-like memorials portrayed the Twin Towers in varying forms, Hyman said he only saw one such mural depicting a person leaping to their death from the flaming World Trade Center.
This realistic memorial contrasted with what he called a sanitized portrayal of the tragic events sponsored by Disney, a memorial showing NYC firefighters and police happily marching along the streets of the city while playing musical instruments.
A haunting shot froze in time a homeless man taking shelter from the night under a crumpled American flag.
Because of the September 11 attacks, Americans have a new sense of vulnerability, said Hyman. People are using both visual and written language to express this, and with it, the myriad emotions tied up with terrorism and loss.
These images and words have hatched a new kind of Americanism. Not as esoteric as inner-city graffiti, hip-hop music or contemporary postmodern art, this new Americana and its language are truly egalitarian.
Hyman has a long-standing interest in the popular culture of the nation and in things by the side of the road.
Along the way, as an adjunct professor at St. Johns University, he taught a class on contemporary art and its relationship to American pop culture.
In 1982, Hyman graduated with honors from Rutgers College. He received a masters of fine arts degree from Hunter College in 1990.
From 1990, he has worked as an assistant basketball coach at several City University of New York (CUNY) colleges. Hyman is currently directing a summer hoops program at Camp Kennybrook in Monticello.
As a professional photographer, he has exhibited at various art galleries since 1983, including an exhibit titled The Streets of New York, presented in Tokyo, Japan.
Last September, his photographs were displayed at the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C. as part of a memorial titled Concert for America. It was aired by NBC on the first anniversary of the terrorist attacks.
In the fall of 2002, many of his images were exhibited in video format at the Corcoran Gallery in the nations capital as part of a larger exhibit commemorating 9/11/2001.
During an upcoming exhibit at the Rico/Mareesca Gallery at 529 West 20th Street in NYC, Hyman will be hanging a 600-picture mural presenting many of his post-September 11, 2001 documentary photographs.