Iwan Baan photographs a powerless New York

New York magazine uses the Dutch photographer's image of New York for the Hurricane Sandy edition

On Sunday morning there was one image of hurricane Sandy which spread like wildfire over the internet, it was the cover of this week’s New York magazine featuring a blacked out downtown Manhattan. Photographed from above by architectural photographer extraordinaire Iwan Baan, it showed the clear cut off between the areas that did and didn’t have power (and for some power is still not restored) in the aftermath of hurricane Sandy. But how did the New Yorker get an image like this when its own offices were in the darkened area Baan photographed and the entire magazine was operating off one long conference table in a borrowed office midtown?

After scrambling for space, computers, finding the various editors, designers and members of the production team, a letter from the editors on the New York magazine website read: “The easiest part of a harried three days came Friday around noon, when we met to settle on the cover. A photograph taken by Iwan Baan on Wednesday night, showing the Island of Manhattan, half aglow and half in dark, was the clear choice, for the way it fit with the bigger story we have tried to tell here about a powerful city rendered powerless.”

“It was the only way to show that New York was two cities, almost,” Iwan Baan told Poynter.org on the phone last night (Sunday evening) from Haiti. “One was almost like a third world country where everything was becoming scarce. Everything was complicated. And then another was a completely vibrant, alive New York.”

Shot from a helicopter, in the middle of the night the day after Sandy hit, Baan explains how he captured the image and what he thinks the it represents: “It’s difficult if it’s freezing outside, you don’t have a door, the helicopter is moving and vibrating, etc., but you really work towards an idea, visualisation of that image which you have in mind. What really struck me, if you look at the image on the left, you see the Goldman Sachs building and new World Trade Center. These two buildings are brightly lit. And then the rest of New York looks literally kind of powerless. In a way, it shows also what’s wrong with the country in this moment.”

Read the full interview with Iwan Baan about the New York magazine cover on Poynter.org