Sunday, 11 September 2011

9/11 magazine covers

The Society of Publication Designers has a selection of 9/11 magazine covers from the past 10 years, grouped in three collections of years here, here, and here

Perhaps because it doesn't exactly do news covers, at least not literally so, The New Yorker's covers seem to respond to the emotional side well. its oblique approach to the Twin Towers increasing the design impact. Although in the first couple of weeks of response to the attacks ten years ago it was the shock of the news which largely prevailed, such covers as the Village Voice's postcard cover at the time also got at the sense of loss – not of simple real estate (the buildings themselves), or necessarily even of lives (that's a given, which is usually and understandably avoided explicitly on a cover), but in the everyday sense of identity: personal, citywide, countrywide.

Ten years after, I'm not sure exactly what TIME – usually so clever with cover ideas – wanted to achieve with their anniversary cover. In the New York Times (which writes about the various anniversary covers) TIME's managing editor says “I wanted something that was uplifting, that was more optimistic. Something that literally and figuratively moved beyond 9/11.”And he added a good point: “The anniversary is going to be ubiquitous, and that’s why you can stray from the usual images.” Nevertheless, this design seems to me to have gone way over the top, ending up almost cheesy, or perhaps an expression in line with the sudden dominance (even Dominion) of religion in U.S. political jockeying. TIME's dedicated issue may be interesting overall, but the cover seems almost Spielbergian.

In contrast, talking about about its more subtle cover – which comes from a different editorial remit and intent, so I'm not really comparing like with like – The New Yorker's art editor Fran├žoise Mouly says in the same NYT article, “The image is quite somber, but there are lights. We wanted to look back and look forward. This image, I felt, was poised just at that cusp moment where it’s also positing a future.”

The excellent magazine-cover blog NASCAPAS also features a few covers (not grouped together, but posted around the anniversary time) including two versions of The Sunday Times magazine cover, which broaches the subject of the 200 or so who jumped/fell from the towers - either of which are impressive designs.

Ten years on, the Twin Towers dominate, naturally. It's the clear image of the day, and most of the covers go for the iconic – they are designs for the anniversary not necessarily for a review of what has happened following the attacks during the past ten years. So, despite it being a decade of war since the attacks, the Pentagon doesn't feature anywhere, nor are there any montages of iconic or explanatory shots to cover the events since. These are anniversary, cover images: symbols. Content – I hope – is inside, along with analysis.

Main image above, my shot of the WTC using an old, fixed-focus (more non-focused), light-leaking Russian panoramic camera I used to have.