While doing recovery work after the September 11 attacks, New York City firefighter Michael Redpath documented everything he saw using a film camera. Almost twelve years later, his negatives met with another catastrophe which altered the images with psychedelic distortions. Learn about the story behind Redpath’s “Residual” photo series after the jump.
Michael Redpath was among the firefighters dispatched to Ground Zero hours after the Twin Towers collapsed. While working on the recovery efforts over the next six months, he also documented everything he saw, first with a disposable camera then with a Canon AE-1.
“When I was going down to Ground Zero, I was going down as a firefighter,” Redpath told Slate Magazine. “But in the back of my head, I wanted to document what I saw down there as much as I possibly could—as much for my own self, to revisit my experience, as to share [it] at some point with other people.”
Redpath always felt that it was “too close to the day of the attack” for him to share his photos to the public. So, for more than a decade after his work in Lower Manhattan was done, the hundreds of photos he took were set aside in his basement studio.
Then, Hurricane Sandy happened last year.
The category 3 hurricane which affected most of the eastern United States and heavily damaged New York and New Jersey. Redpath’s home was flooded, and his negatives were irreversibly altered. “The salt water effected the emulation of the negatives and the plastic negative protectors they were stored in,” he told The New Yorker.
A relative scanned the damaged negatives, revealing the psychedelic effects (much like Matthew Brandt's soaked photographs) rendered by Sandy on Redpath’s 9/11 photographs. The collection of photos, which was eventually called “Residual Images,” were recently featured in a show at First Street Green in New York City.