The 9/11 cover that captured the world
Canadian photographer Lyle Owerko witnessed the 9/11 attacks on New York City
By Evan Mitsui, Manmeet Ahluwalia, CBC News
Posted: Aug 23, 2011 1:17 PM ET
Last Updated: Aug 30, 2011 10:55 AM ET
On Sept. 11, 2001, photographer Lyle Owerko's camera bag sat beside his door, still packed with multiple cameras and lenses from a trip to Africa. Jet-lagged, he was sitting in his apartment in New York's Tribeca neighbourhood when the attack on the World Trade Center began.
"I heard the first plane crash.... It sounded so close," Owerko said. The 43-year-old photographer, born in Calgary, raced onto the street and began shooting. The pictures he took were from a street-level viewpoint, bringing an immediacy and intimacy to the horror of the scene.
A 400-millimetre telephoto lens he didn't normally carry but had taken to Africa allowed him to capture the image that would become the unforgettable cover of Time magazine's 9/11 special issue.Canadian photographer Lyle Owerko's photo graced the cover of Time magazine's Sept. 11, 2001, special edition. Lyle Owerko/Vernon Jolly Inc.
"When that second plane hit, I knew that the world changed. You could just feel it. I just knew that the camera I was holding in my hand contained lightning in a bottle."
Owerko's cover shot and subsequent shots from 9/11 and the days that followed won critical acclaim throughout the news and photography worlds. The Time cover was listed as one of the top 40 magazine covers of the last 40 years by the American Society of Magazine Editors. Despite the praise — including recognition from U.S. presidents Barack Obama and Bill Clinton — Owerko remains uneasy with the image.
"That 9/11 cover is just hard to wrap your hands around. And it's even something hard to be proud of. It's merely a spectacular witness image... it's not an image that's the best use of my imagination," he said.
Owerko's photos from 9/11 and the days following have been compiled into a book titled And No Birds Sang.
Owerko has gone on to produce critically acclaimed documentary and fine art photography, returning numerous times to Africa to document the Samburu people of Northern Kenya and the tribe's struggle to retain its traditional way of life.
"I don't want to put myself into tragic and disruptive atmospheres every day in my line of work. I want to celebrate the human condition," Owerko said.
"That image," referring to the Time magazine cover, "won't benefit my career. Not until I've put another decade under my belt in this industry. It's a footnote, but not a summary."
Top News Headlines
- How was the Mike Duffy report 'whitewashed?'
- Opposition parties pushed the government on Thursday to answer questions about the "whitewashed" Duffy report while the RCMP is also seeking more information from the Senate as part of its review of questionable expenses. more »
- 2nd suspect in Tim Bosma murder case to plead not guilty
- The lawyer for Mark Smich says the Oakville, Ont., resident will plead not guilty to first-degree murder in the death of Tim Bosma, the Hamilton man who disappeared earlier this month after taking two men on a test drive of his truck. more »
- SNC-Lavalin letter says Gadhafi son offered VP post: RCMP
- SNC-Lavalin's ties to Libya's former dictatorship ran so deep the company offered the son of Moammar Gadhafi a six-figure job as a vice president in 2008, according to a newly unsealed RCMP affidavit. more »
- Canada Post campaigns against 'no flyers' mailbox signs
- Canada Post has been mailing more than 900,000 letters across the country to people to try to convince them to remove "no flyer" signs from their mailboxes. more »
Latest World News Headlines
- What happens when a virus becomes a commodity
- There are still conflicts over sharing viruses, an international law professor says. more »
- 2 more arrests linked to hacking death of British soldier
- WARNING: This story contains graphic content. Two more people have been arrested by officers investigating the hacking death of a U.K. soldier in London, say British police. more »
- Neil Macdonald: Harper no Obama when it comes to dealing with scandals
- Beset by three so-called scandals at the moment, Barack Obama has been meeting his accusers and the press head on, Neil Macdonald writes. The same cannot be said for how Stephen Harper operates. more »
- Atlantic hurricane season forecast to be busy
- The U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration is predicting is busier than average Atlantic hurricane season with up to 20 named storms, including as many as six major hurricanes. more »
Connect Newsroom Blog
- Karla Homolka, Sandusky Trial & Connect Goodbye Jun. 22, 2012 6:01 PM Tonight, we'll talk to the journalist who tracked down Karla Homolka.