"Going Back to War, At Home"

By Dirck Halstead

Over the past two decades, photojournalist David Turnley has found himself on many battlefronts around the world. From South Africa, to Kosovo, to the Gulf War, he has learned the survival skills that have allowed him to negotiate these dangerous areas, and still take prize-winning photographs.

A graduate of the 1999 Platypus Workshop, for past year David has hung up his cameras to become the Director of Corbis Documentaries. On September 11th, he was supposed to be putting the finishing touches on a theatrical documentary he had done on Cuban musicians.

Watching the flames erupt from the towers from his home on 10th street, he immediately reverted to his still photojournalism instincts. "I went into auto pilot," David recalled, "I was right back in a war zone, but [with] the sensation of being in my backyard. Seeing the familiar shock on people's faces, I knew something very ominous was happening."

Running down 6th Avenue, he heard a second plane pass overhead. It was moving so fast that it sounded to him like a warplane, and then it smashed into the second tower. He was three blocks from Ground Zero, photographing the conflagration when the first tower started to crumble.

"I have been in the midst of shells landing in Chechnya and Grozny, and I have been in the shelling in Bosnia, and the sound was very familiar," said Turnley, "but what was unfamiliar was the incredible sensation of seeing 110 stories falling in front of me...the impact and the ominous sensation of the size of these things, and then the abstract idea there were human beings in them."

In the smoke and darkness, he photographed firemen trying to save people in the rubble. He followed one fireman for nearly an hour as he tried to pry away the wreckage. The fireman finally slumped to the ground, covering his face with his hands, and started to sob, "Oh, if only I could do my job, but there is nobody to find."

There was another big difference for David in covering this new battleground. For the first time in his life, people were speaking English. Unlike all the foreign stories he had covered, this time, he could actually understand what people were saying. This processing of information added to the shock.

In the following presentation, we take you with David as he enters the horror.

Enter David Turnley's Photo Gallery

Video Interview
with David Turnley

Camera: Dirck Halstead

To watch these video clips, you will need
the Free Real Player or Quicktime Player.

"It sounded like a warplane..."
"People were completely panicked..."
Meeting firemen and survivors and Ground Zero
"A familiar sense of being in a warzone..."
"My only thought was to pick up my still cameras..."

Seeing the Horror, Part II
Peter Turnley | Bill Biggart | David Turnley
Chip East | Aris Economopoulos

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