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2017 Annual Juried Competition
As an American Studies and Studio Art double-major in college, I wrote my senior thesis on commemorative practices after September 11. I was fascinated by the state-sponsored language, imagery, and ceremonies that materialized so quickly after the Twin Towers fell, and the ways that the media reworked dissonant events to fit an exceptionalist, often xenophobic narrative. I argued that these rituals were cyclical and exclusionary, primarily designed to narrow and politicize our experience of the event.
This past winter, I visited the new World Trade Center for the first time. As I entered the Transportation Hub’s expansive atrium, I noticed that nearly every visitor would pause on one balcony to take pictures of themselves. It’s a familiar tourist custom, but I was struck by its particular meaning in this space. An I-was-there picture implies that the subject feels welcome within, and entitled to engage with, a monument’s version of events. With this series, I sought to capture what I perceived as an unwitting ritual of belongingness, performed by citizens and foreigners alike, who were presumably documenting a vacation and having fun with loved ones—but who were also expanding a narrative, making themselves visible, and adding themselves to history.
Juliana Halpert is a writer and photographer based in Bushwick, Brooklyn. Her work has recently been featured in Ginger Zine and in “12 x 12” at Black Ball Projects in Williamsburg, Brooklyn. She has written for artforum.com, Daylight Digital, and the New Yorker‘s photography blog, Photo Booth. She graduated from Vassar College in 2012, where she was awarded the Harvey Flad/Anne Constantinople American Culture prize for her thesis on commemorative practices after September 11.
Artist’s website: www.julianahalpert.com