A Dozen from Ground Zero

Photographer Roberto Rabanne prints "September 11 2001 New York City" box-set portfolio.

Big Picture

Photographer Roberto Rabanne ( was on his way to a fashion shoot in mid-town Manhattan on September 11, 2001, camera in hand, when planes struck the World Trade Center. He was not only there to capture the horrible events of that day, but also would spend weeks documenting the aftermath, choking down the particles that engulfed the surrounding area.

“For the first five days I was there at Ground Zero; I didn’t get any sleep and inhaled a lot of the crap in the air. But I needed to focus on it and go forward because it was a historic situation that needed to be documented,” says Rabanne. The result: an in-depth study in pictures of the tragedy of that day, and a visual comment on the human spirit.

His entire photographic archive of more than 500 images of the event is now part of the permanent collection housed by the National September 11 Memorial & Museum, with the museum scheduled to open in 2012.

In anticipation of the museum opening, and to honor the 10th anniversary of 9/11, Rabanne and the World Trade Center Foundation decided to choose a dozen of his photos for inclusion into an exhibit at the Museum. But they wanted to also offer the photographs in a way that people could take with them.

“I discussed with the curatorial staff about doing something other than the obvious, like a book,” says Rabanne. “I’m a photography collector and I like to see the actual pictures, not just in a book form, and I thought that would have value as a powerful and compelling history, as well as an archival print that you can frame that’s an original from the photographer. Those iconic pictures, like Iwo Jima, are remarkable in that they captured that slice of history. An important thing for photographers is that decisive moment.”

The Foundation agreed with Rabanne, and the resultant solution was a limited-edition curated box-set portfolio titled September 11 2001 New York City. The set would comprise 12 of the most dramatic and compelling moments from Rabanne’s archive, with a portion of the proceeds from the sale of the box sets going to the museum. Which images to select for the set (and the museum exhibit) became the project’s first challenge.

“There are a few images from the collection that encapsulate the story with a sense of brevity. It’s the amount of images that’s hard to edit down, as it can be with anything, so we decided to choose 12 images that tell the story from beginning to end,” says Rabanne.

After the final 12 images were chosen by Jan Seidler Ramirez, the museum’s chief curator, Rabanne then turned his attention to the output. He wanted to ensure the prints would bring out the details need to tell the story while providing archival durability.

LexJet donated the media, its Sunset Photo eSatin Paper (used for both the exhibit and the box sets), while Canon USA donated inks for Rabanne’s Canon iPF8300 printer to produce the 13 x 19-inch prints.

“Thus far it has gone very smoothly, and with the support of Canon and LexJet, it’s a reality. Not a problem and not a hiccup through the whole process. LexJet was very helpful to help us get the profiles set up right, and we printed in gangs of three-up for a very efficient workflow,” says Rabanne.

The Special Edition Portfolio is now available online at; the exhibit will take place in 2012 when the Museum opens.


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