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MEMORIAL IMAGES: On September 11, 2001, NYPD detective John Botte was at Ground Zero as part of an executive protection detail for then-Police Commissioner Bernard Kerik. That evening, he began taking pictures with a Leica and some vintage black-and-white film, and he continued to do so in the days that followed. Now, 10 years later, large blowups of his images are at The Calumet Gallery in an exhibition curated by photographer Timothy White and sponsored by The Morrison Hotel Gallery. The scale of the prints brings the viewer intimately into the scene, while the shades of the black-and-white film highlight the high contrasts in the piles of rubble and the pieces of buildings that remain upright. Botte’s position as a member of the NYPD afforded him extraordinary access, resulting in a shot of Rudolph Giuiliani, David Dinkins and others at prayer at a breakfast meeting on Sept. 12 — and many much more disturbing scenes. “You’re thrown into the noise, chaos, heat, noxious fumes and death,” White said.
“The only thing I said was that the images have to be big,” said Botte, who allowed White to choose the images for the show on his own. White didn’t want to use more than 20 pictures, because he felt that a small group would have the most impact. Botte mixed the developer to print the photos himself. The photographer, who left the police force in 2003, suffers from health problems probably contracted at Ground Zero and now works for White. He lost many colleagues on Sept. 11: “A lot of them were my friends,” he said. “A lot.”