New York after the storm
by Iwan Baan


Slideshow feature: this set of images by Dutch architectural photographer Iwan Baan shows the scene in New York over the past week as the city recovers from the effects of Hurricane Sandy that swept across Manhattan last Monday, cutting the electricity and flooding the streets and subways.

New York after the storm by Iwan Baan

Iwan Baan also photographed the city from the air, creating a striking photograph that made the cover of New York Magazine (above). The image shows part of the city in darkness, while the rest is is filled with light and colour. "It was the only way to show that New York was two cities, almost," Baan told Poynter magazine. "One was almost like a third world country where everything was becoming scarce. Everything was complicated. And then another was a completely vibrant, alive New York."

A week later the city is now getting back to normal, with power mostly restored, schools reopening and subways running again.

Earlier this year Iwan Baan photographed a vertical slum in Venezuela for an exhibition that won the Golden Lion for best project at the Venice Architecture Biennale. Watch the interview we filmed with Baan about the project.

See more photography by Iwan Baan »

Here's a short statement from Baan on his experience photographing the city from above:

"I’ve photographed Manhattan from above many times in the past, so when I set out to shoot, I had already in mind my approach. I also thought, the only way to truly show how the island, which was now divided by those with power, and those without, was to find a helicopter, and shoot it from the sky.

I began calling on all of the heli-pilots I could think of in the Manhattan area, but each of them were either without fuel, on recovery efforts, or without power themselves. To my relief, after nearly exhausting all efforts, I managed to get a hold of a pilot who I had met just a week prior, and he said yes, he was able to fly.

The day after Sandy struck, I had reserved a car in Manhattan - just in case. But to my demise, the rental company had already given away my reservation, leaving me without a car, and without a means to getting to the helipad.

After a bit of negotiating, I finally found a rental at JFK. And 4 hours of standstill traffic, closed bridges and a $2000.00usd price tag later, I made it to the airport and had the car keys in hand.

Before I could shake off a bit of the frenzy that was going around, my phone rang. It was New York Magazine calling, and all that I could make out through the broken network reception was the word helicopter. With the phone lines being as bad as they were, it was completely impossible to hear what they were saying, but I figured I’d make my way to the heliport no matter what. I had already made my 4-hour trek out of Manhattan, so I could make it there in a breeze.

Renting a car, hunting for gas and inching my way through traffic to get to the heliport was by far the most trying and difficult part of getting this shot!

Without doors on the heli, it was a freezing cold, hour-long ride to fly into Manhattan. I spent about an hour above the city, where I knew I wanted to capture these two cities – one, a vibrant and pulsating Manhattan that we recognise so vividly, and its antonym – a lifeless city turned pitch black and ominous.

Illuminating the bottom left of the photograph is the glowing Goldman Sachs building. Just next is the construction site for the World Trade Centre, which is top-to-bottom, lit with power (despite the rest of lower Manhattan being completely powerless). I think perhaps, this ‘division of power’ is an allegory for the county’s declining infrastructure, telling us also about who is truly prepared for when sobering events like Sandy strike."

  • P.A.F.L.

    I read Dezeen quite regularly and I am really disappointed that this is only post concerning the storm.

    While in some ways I am happy to see it get covered at all, the way the design world tends to look at the work of photographers like Iwan Baan is nothing more than ruin porn.

    Yes schools and subways are opening up again, but the disaster-hit areas are not “getting back to normal”.

    Manhattan, which is just about all the magazine cover shows, has 7000 households without power but Queens still has 86,000.

    There are absolutely ways that designers can help and I am very disappointed that those that are trying to do so are not covered here. We designers have a responsibility to product users and design is about more than fancy lights.

    I am a disaster relief architect, and I am on the ground in New York for the storm. I can’t even get to the worst-hit parts of New Jersey, but outer New York City looks like a scene from I am Legend. The storm may have passed, but now is when all the work gets done and it is our job to help!

    • Do you have a blog or website where I can see (and promote) your work?

      Big props to you sir… or madam? :)

    • Bel-Esprit

      P.A.F.L. What is your point? NYC is getting back to normal, I live here. Kind of don’t want to dwell in the negative space of sorrow, so I use my energy towards helping those hard hit in the outer boroughs get the resources they need.

  • Indeed it’s great that it’s getting some coverage, but on the flip side it’s a terrible thing that has happened so using it for your portfolio seems a bit wrong.

  • eurosign

    With all due respect, P.A.F.L, will you quit criticizing this website for what it’s not and just apreciate it for what it is? I’ve seen plenty of this attitude recently here. Surely that makes sense? There are other websites such as Core77 where I’m sure there’ll be plenty of the type of posts that you are asking for, and more relevant since its readership is more American and thus more likely to get involved in disaster relief.

    • P.A.F.L.

      I really enjoy this website for what it is as well. All I said was that I was disappointed with the coverage concerning a natural disaster that will need design solutions.

      Natural disasters are everybody’s problems. This one affected more than just the United States, but you would never know by looking at these photographs. I would hope that the people in this country (I’m only half American) would be more willing to look at natural disasters now that a major one has hit a major city here.

      • @P.A.F.L. You’re a designer… do you own an SLR? Maybe, instead of complaining about a perfectly legitimate documentation of a moment in time, you might more effectively capture and convey the vital message about which you seem content to leave to someone else to communicate?

  • Crouch – the atmpsphere of blackout in NY is much better reproducted there.

  • gudrun gundula

    PAFL: just drive over to Jersey or Queens or where ever and do your thing. Bravo. But stop patronizing people with your BS about desiger responsibilities and how this storm ought to be covered by the media.

    Natural desasters happen all the time, all around the world. And just why would this one be special? Because it’s NY?

    • P.A.F.L.

      I am not asking to be commended. I am asking for the help of others.

      As you say very correctly, natural disasters happen all the time, all around the world, and there are things that we can do to help.

      I find it a real shame to see so many great design minds designing beautiful products that are really just chairs/tables/clocks/lighting. I find it hard to appreciate a home, no matter how ingenious or meticulously crafted, that cost several million dollars/euros/pounds/whatever denomination of money you wish, but only houses one family, when many more could be sheltered for much less.

      Why is this one special? It isn’t all that special, except for the fact that it was in New York. It is exactly the opportunity for people who are not usually thinking about disasters to start thinking about them.

      “It doesn’t matter because it doesn’t effect me”. I understand that not everybody who read this was affected, but does that mean they shouldn’t help?

      I am from Japan and we have earthquakes and tsunami many times a year, but we are well prepared for them now, unlike many other places.

    • “Natural disasters happen all the time, all around the world. And just why would this one be special? Because it’s NY?”

      Actually, yes. This tragedy had to happen (I know it’s a terrible thing to say, but there you go).

      It had to happen, so the American people could finally open their eyes to the reality of climate change. Seeing the force of nature from the comfort of their living rooms was not enough. They had to experience it in the flesh.

      My heart goes to the victims of this tragedy. Both in the USA, as well as our brother nations in the Caribbean and Antilles.

  • MZR

    PAFL, are you kidding? I really like NY as a city but sometimes I’m really sad to see how much you can think that you are the center of the world. That’s the first time I see a post concerning a natural disaster on Dezeen, and I think it’s just because it’s NY.

    These things are happening every day all around the world. That’s true that it’s designers’ and architects’ task to help people when this kind of disaster happens (and most of all before). But then,] why are you not disappointed and posting about people who don’t at least have clear water or any house instead of saying that the all world should care about the fact that there are no more street lights in NY?

    Again, I’m not saying that I don’t care about what is happening there, but I’m just tired when some people don’t care about what is happening in the other countries and at the same time tell us that we should care more about them.

    BR and good luck!

    • hehehe

      Hehehe, spot on mate. Disaster! Where is PAFL going to charge his iPhone for the next week?

      • P.A.F.L.

        I know right?! Even starbucks was out of power! Such a tragedy. Luckily, I have more important things to do than care about my non-smart phone not having power.

    • P.A.F.L.

      You make a couple of really great points.

      I will make one little correction though, because I am not from New York City (any of the 5 boroughs) at all, so it’s not me thinking it’s the center of the world.

      That being said, I agree that New Yorkers tend to think that they are the center of everything. Seeing as NYC is not hit by earthquakes like Japan, floods like Thailand or Pakistan, everything like Haiti, etc etc, I think this has the potential to be a vital reality check for the region.

      I’m confused, because thats exactly what I’m trying to bring attention to. These photographs show the disaster-hit region as Manhattan, but only a little portion doesn’t have power. As many people were killed in the Caribbean in this storm as in the whole of the United States, but that gets no coverage. I don’t talk in a post like this about clean water, because its almost too much of a jump.

      So, my main critique here was that there is no disaster coverage on design blogs, and then the only attempt at coverage was essentially ruin porn. It’s hard to find a place to bring that up when they haven’t provided one. There are design solutions to problems in natural disasters all over the world, and I wish they got more coverage, too.

      • MZR

        Ah! Thanks then! I agree. And if you tried to bring attention to it, then well done : )

      • Agreed.

      • gudrun gundula

        So you’re from Japan, PAFL? Then you should know that after earthquakes and tsunamis, people there just roll up their sleves and clean up. No sulking, no big fuss, no complaining that their disaster dont get enough converage in fancy design magazines. Now that’s commendable, PAFL!

        • P.A.F.L.

          Sir, what you say is not entirely correct, but I think there is one thing we can agree on, and that there are more important things for us to do than bicker here.

          I have my work, and I wish you the best with yours.

          • gudrun gundula

            Don’t get nasty here, PAFL. You’re the one who started the bickering.

  • Pluk vd Petteflet

    The best I find is the story. The photo is a complement to that. Gelukkig 2013 en succes, Iwan.