Daryl Lang, blogger, senior copywriter at ShutterStock, and (full disclosure here) a former colleague at PDN Online, was increasingly perturbed by the mounting public hysteria and opposition to the proposed plan for an Islamic center near Ground Zero in Downtown Manhattan. Armed with a Canon PowerShot SD600, he spent a couple of hours one Sunday afternoon photographing the streets and storefronts operating near the supposed hallowed ground and posted them to his blog.
The images show a strip club, an off track betting store and a classic Irish pub. As Lang writes: “Look at the photos. This neighborhood is not hallowed. The people who live and work here are not obsessed with 9/11. The blocks around Ground Zero are like every other hard-working neighborhood in New York, where Muslims are just another thread of the city fabric.”
Lang simply, but very effectively documented what he saw. Within days, without any promotion, his post had gone viral, by his friends posting it on Facebook and Twitter. The original post has now been viewed nearly 400,000 times and been written up in influential blogs like Gawker. Earlier this week, Lang was interviewed by the BBC and allowed to present his point of view uninterrupted.
He told The Photoletariat his motivation was a “gap in the conversation” about this Islamic cultural center that he had the “tools to fill.” Lang explains: “most people don’t know what Downtown Manhattan looks like. Politicians were making it sound like the whole area is a hallowed battlefield. I work Downtown and know otherwise. I figured a few photos of the streets and storefronts could solve this misconception.”
The overwhelming response to the post demonstrates the power of presenting an alternative view or a different slant on a much-debated topic. Lang’s photographs are by no means the work of a seasoned photojournalist, but combined and accompanied with incisive commentary, they tell the true story of New York in 2010.