By Sally Deering
On the morning of the 9/11 attack, Jersey City photographer Sandra Swieder grabbed her camera and notebook and headed to the waterfront where she captured the heroic rescue and recovery efforts of firefighters, police officers, doctors, nurses, EMTs and other volunteers. In the days and months that followed, Swieder continued to photograph and collect stories from survivors, witnesses and emergency responders this side of the Hudson.
On Sept. 1 and running through Sept. 15, Art House Productions, a non-profit organization committed to the development and presentation of performing and visual arts in Jersey City presents “From Across the River,” a photography exhibition by Swieder that captures the events of September 11th from the New Jersey perspective.
“With the tenth anniversary coming up, we thought it was a very important story to tell,” Arthouse Productions’ Executive Director Christine Goodman says. “Some people say ‘who wants to relive these images? But Sandra’s photographs have hope, too. What Sandra’s done is document the people and their stories and the real strength of the everyday individuals who rose up that day.”
On the morning of September 11, 2001, after the attacks on the World Trade Center, Hudson County’s waterfront became the hub for emergency personnel, volunteers and over 200,000 survivors who were ferried from lower Manhattan to the Jersey waterfront. When they arrived on the Jersey side – in Hoboken and Jersey City – thousands were decontaminated and triaged, some were hospitalized and given shelter.
That waterfront triage in Jersey City became a five-block radius of emergency personnel, volunteers and family members and the staging area at Exchange Place turned into a lifeline to “Ground Zero.” Swieder, with her camera and notebook, documented the events. She established relationships with key emergency personnel, collected their stories and created a historical record of images and personal accounts and put it all together in “From Across the River.” The exhibit consists of photography and interviews of First Responders, with approximately thirty images ranging from 11×14 to 6 ft. Images have been produced on a number of different mediums such as Plexiglas, canvas and photographic paper. The exhibition will also include a memorial sculpture of reclaimed steel from Ground Zero by artist Matt Johnson.
“It is extremely important to preserve the history of events that transpired on the Jersey side,” Swieder says. “This project illustrates what took place along the Hudson River and how New Jersey responded to the immediate needs of lower Manhattan that Tuesday morning and in the days, weeks and months following.”
Goodman says “From Across the River,” is a powerful exhibition but absolutely essential to our culture and history.
“It’s preserving the history of what happened on the Hudson River that day and how our New Jersey community came together with New York,” Goodman says, “and how our emergency responders, our citizens, police officers, firefighters and everyday people rose up in this time of need. The work is powerful. It’s preserving our history and honoring these people. Sandra’s work is about healing and community.”
Funding for “From Across the River” is by Hudson County Executive Thomas A. DeGise, the Hudson County Board of Chosen Freeholders and the Hudson County Office of Cultural Affairs & Heritage/Tourism Development. The exhibit will be up for two weeks at Arthouse Productions and then moved to the Brennan Courthouse where it will be installed for the public to view in the Theodore Conrad Rotunda from Sept. 22 through Oct.14.
.”It’s not only about us, it’s much bigger,” Swieder says. “My intentions are for it to travel. I think people really need to understand what happened that day. My energies are positive. I’m a single mom with a three year-old. How do I tell the future generations what happened that day? What images do they have of the firemen, the twisted metal and the dust-covered buildings? This is a different perspective. I tried to capture the beauty and the unity of the people that day. Maybe this can bring some closure, some healing. People can look at the worst day of American history in a different light.”
Now to Sept.15th
From Across the River
Art House Productions
One McWilliams Place
(Housed in the former St. Francis Hospital Building, SE corner of Hamilton Park)
Jersey City, NJ
For more info or to schedule a viewing appointment, call (201) 915-9911 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Opening reception: Thurs, Sept 1, 7-10 p.m.
Gallery Open: Sept. 9th, 7-9 p.m.
Closing reception: Sept 15, 7-9 p.m.
Additional viewings by appointment; to schedule a visit call 201-915-911
Special Anniversary Gallery Openings
Sat. and Sun, Sept. 10 and 11, 12-6 p.m.