On an exclusive assignment to photo-document the rebuilding of New York’s demolished World Trade Centre (WTC), the sky was off limits for lensman Vicky Roy.
Roy, one of four photographers with unlimited access to the former crash site, now a construction ground, desperately wanted a picture of an airplane crossing over the site.
This, however, wasn’t to be.
“Besides the sounds of heavy machinery, the silence over the gaping site is only interrupted by the drone of airplanes crossing overhead. It made for a prized picture, but WTC authorities were dead against any such reminder,” said the 22-year-old.
A photographer from Delhi, Roy’s talent earned him a six-month mentorship residency programme in New York, awarded by the Maybach Foundation.
The project included two photographers from the US and one from Hong Kong.
“They are rebuilding four towers and at a rapid pace. Safety and security are the primary concerns,” Roy said.
Mangled metal, scaffolding and uniformed workers populate the WTC’s muddy landscape. Even among metal behemoths, Roy has managed to capture the human stories.
Primarily in black and white, the photographs suggest both a sense of renewal in the construction shots and prolonged moaning when he pans wider where the towers once stood.
Roy’s own story, too, is one of courage. At 10, he ran away from his home in Purulia, West Bengal.
He then became a ragpicker at a Delhi railway station until adopted and rehabilitated by the Salaam Balak Trust.
“I was never any good at studies and got into photography fuelled by greed to see the world,” said Roy, who has been assisting Delhi-based photographer Anay Mann since 2004.
“Having lived on the streets, it was the obvious subject for me. Street Dreams, my first exhibition, showcased street-children who are destitute but still harbour ambitions.”
New York was Roy’s first trip overseas.
“When in Class 7, I heard of the attack on the twin towers in passing. All I knew about New York before arriving was that they have very stringent immigration laws,” he said.
(WTC: Now will be exhibited at Bodhi Art Gallery in Kala Ghoda till September 15. The exhibition marks eight years since the WTC was razed)