This Fall I lugged several boxes from the basement stacks at Chambers Street to a wide desk in the room where the archivists sit. The boxes contained materials belonging to Rudolph Giuliani’s Press Office and were stuffed haphazardly with photographic prints and albums documenting speeches, a visit by the Pope, and even Giuliani in full costume and makeup backstage at the Lion King on Broadway. In one box I found a print showing the Mayor performatively aiming a camera at a landmark on what appeared to be Ellis Island while journalists photographed him taking the photograph. In the same folder there were a few envelopes of images that seemed out of place. The images were blurry, over exposed, and tilted at dramatic angles, unlikely to have been taken by the Mayor’s staff photographer. I kept searching and soon found an oversized print showing a postcard-like image of a bridge at sunset, signed with an unmistakable “Rudy Giuliani.” I called to Ian Kern, one of the city’s archivists, whose unit was busy processing Michael Bloomberg’s emails.
“Ian, do you happen to know if Rudy Giuliani considered himself . . . an artist?”
Ian chuckled and walked over. I showed him the banal but technically competent bridge print with Giuliani’s signature, and then laid out a photograph of Giuliani pointing a camera at Manhattan from the Jersey side of the Hudson River. Finally, being careful to rectify the sight lines, I put down a blurry 4 × 6 image of the Twin Towers and their surrounding architecture skewed at a 45-degree angle. Ian looked at the photos and nodded; he agreed that the Twin Towers photograph was taken by Giuliani in the moment documented by the press photographer.
In the days that followed, I found a press release for an exhibition of Giuliani’s photographs at Leica Gallery in May 1998, called “View from the Capital of the World.” The show opened a mere eighteen months before Giuliani attempted to shutter the Brooklyn Museum over its Sensations exhibition, which he called “sick and disgusting.” Outside of the archive I found a 1997 article in Photo magazine that quoted Diane Bondareff, a photographer for the Mayor’s office who managed Giulani’s personal photo bag, as saying, “He’s always looking for visually striking scenes, even when he’s marching in parades.” Jay Deutsch of Leica Gallery confirmed that the Mayor’s three loves were “photography, the opera, and the Yankees.” I found two other signed exhibition prints in the archive, both similar to the first: sweeping views of the city seemingly shot from the aerial vantage of a helicopter. Each was in stark contrast to the more casual shots in the Press Office box, which were uniformly out of focus, either overly bright or too dark except for a crisp flash, and often included Giuliani’s finger as a beige smudge in front of his chosen subject matter—colleagues, boats, pretzel stands, and even an eagle flying over what I assume is Central Park.
…read the full text at n+1
Aspiring Photographer, 2020
4 x 6 inches (each)
diptych of Lightjet C-prints
29 5/8 x 39 5/8 inches
archival pigment print on cotton rag
Edition of 3 + 1AP