Windows on the World That Was
September 10, 2014 11:00 PM   Subscribe

In June 2001, Estonian immigrant Konstantin Petrov got a job as an electrician for Windows on the World, the famous restaurant in the World Trade Center. The New Yorker has an article about the recent discovery of a trove of photographs he took during lulls in his shifts, an incredible record of the complex before the events of thirteen years ago.

He posted his images on Fotki, a photo sharing site that was around in the days before Flickr (The pre-9/11 images are in the Windows on the World subfolder).

Sadly, he died in 2002 after getting into an accident on his motorcycle.

His images though were used in the documentary 9/10: The Final Hours.
posted by theartandsound (16 comments total) 36 users marked this as a favorite
Of the ones that I've flipped through, this one stands out. It's framed very well, and it gives this glimpse of a space as it existed before being made ready for the public, and as probably few people ever saw it. The soft interior lighting seems almost perfect for the sunrise. The runner up is this one from the same series, with the pink light of the sunrise.
posted by Rhomboid at 1:12 AM on September 11, 2014 [8 favorites]

Never such innocence
Never before or since,
As changed itself to past
Without a word […]
Never such innocence again.
posted by Doktor Zed at 3:13 AM on September 11, 2014 [1 favorite]

I think that's the photographer on the left in this one (reflected in that wacky mirror).
posted by chavenet at 3:48 AM on September 11, 2014

Interesting side-note about Fotki:

Dmitri Don . . . a computer programmer, had come to New York in 1995 and had developed Fotki with his wife so that he and his friends could share photographs with people back in Estonia. This was well before Flickr and Facebook. “We were the first,” Don said last week, via Skype. He tried for many years to interest investors in New York in his photo-sharing concept, but no one seemed to get why anyone would want to post pictures on the Internet. “They all said, ‘Why not just use e-mail?’ ” Eventually, he ran out of money and prospects and had to move back to Tallinn.
posted by ryanshepard at 5:51 AM on September 11, 2014 [5 favorites]

> I think that's the photographer on the left in this one (reflected in that wacky mirror).

The New Yorker article includes a couple conventional selfies.
posted by ardgedee at 6:18 AM on September 11, 2014

This type of photography has always been an interest of mine. Feels voyeuristic when I take them, but I'm glad he did this too.

It feels to me as though this represents how there is so much in the structure and foundations of our every day that we manage to never take in.
posted by Buttons Bellbottom at 6:19 AM on September 11, 2014 [1 favorite]

This one is exactly how I remember the interior of the building. I was a temp worker when I first got out of college, and one of my jobs was in the World Trade Center. I remember how excited I was to go there - and how blah and nondescript the office actually was. Still, I went up to the Observation Deck and peeked into Windows on the World as often as I could find an excuse. And then life moved on and so did I and even after the first bombing I didn't give the place another thought until it was too late. My memories of the actual building are few and far between - there was so much about the interior that was just not memorable - and it really bugs me that my last memory of being in the building was that day a few months before 9/11 when I bought some stuff at the Victoria's Secret in the mall underneath.

. for the victims, and for all that we lost.
posted by Mchelly at 6:28 AM on September 11, 2014 [6 favorites]

Why did Windows on the World need a regular electrician who had a shift that ended at 8 a.m.?
posted by grouse at 6:29 AM on September 11, 2014

Why did Windows on the World need a regular electrician who had a shift that ended at 8 a.m.?

"City that never sleeps" aside, the restaurant had all sorts of events going on regularly. One of my co-workers had a musician friend who was there very early that morning to set up his equipment for a gig later that day.
posted by Doktor Zed at 7:00 AM on September 11, 2014

I have wished that I had, at various points in my life, just gone through my day photographing everything. My bathroom, the insides of the kitchen cabinets, the commute to work or school, and so on. You never know what you'll find fascinating in the years and decades ahead. There are so few pictures of my childhood home and for each one I wish I could poke my head in and look around just a little bit more than is shown in the image.
posted by LastOfHisKind at 7:17 AM on September 11, 2014 [15 favorites]

I have wished that I had, at various points in my life, just gone through my day photographing everything.

I'm on the sketchbook train that everyone else is on now, and I struggle with this feeling myself. I want to, or think I should, draw what's literally around me, just capturing my time and place. But it all seems so boring and common; but much of what we see now as ornate and elegantly decorated and beautiful was the same in its way at the time it was captured, and much depiction of what's common will be lost over time until what remains is a very interesting record just because it's a capture of a lost commonality. It doesn't even need artistry, necessarily, and a lot of these photographs are simply competent. But it's an amateur's mistake to think that creating something of interest requires some kind of magical artistic pixie dust that sets it apart from what it plainly is: just a photograph of a bottle of wine, or a sunrise, made interesting by the passage of time and story around it. If all you accomplish is that, you've actually accomplished quite a lot.
posted by fatbird at 7:39 AM on September 11, 2014 [8 favorites]

This one is exactly how I remember the interior of the building. I was a temp worker when I first got out of college, and one of my jobs was in the World Trade Center.

My stomach dropped when I saw that picture - because I temped in that exact same office once too. I remember that one of those printers made a strange wheezing noise that made someone else think that I was sighing repeatedly whenever I printed anything.

Among the many (manymanymany) reasons that today is a little fraught for me each year, in fact, is the fact that that temp agency had tried calling me on September 10th with a job. I didn't get the message until late in the day, though, and by the time I called them back they'd already given it to someone else.

I didn't ask at the time where it was, and they never told me. But they did have a lot of clients in the Towers. And so each year I'm haunted by the possibility that I may have very narrowly missed being in the Towers that day.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 8:13 AM on September 11, 2014 [12 favorites]

I have wished that I had, at various points in my life, just gone through my day photographing everything

Yes! This is a great find.
posted by marimeko at 8:57 AM on September 11, 2014 [2 favorites]

My office manager and I were in Windows on the World to evaluate it a week, week and a half before. At the time I was working for a corporate communications production firm as a producer, and planning an "Executive Weekend" for a client. One of the events was to be a formal dinner on a Saturday night in October. I brought the office manager along because as the ex-wife of an old school DC lobbyist back in the early 1970s, she had helped organize a lot of these types of events, and I wanted her insights.

I remember seeing the space, going into the kitchen, meeting staff (who were all very nice), and sampling foods from the banquet menu. The food we tried was delicious. But I also remember thinking at the time that the venue itself looked a little... dated? A smidge tawdry. 80s. The piano in the corner made me think of the old sitcom It's a Living. And the view of oil tanks with all the pipes and whatnot on the NJ side of the Hudson was a "No". Man. The look the office manager and I gave each other at one point; it said, "It's too bad, everyone's so nice!" The client would be taking up the entire venue, so it wouldn't be simply a matter of curtaining off a section they wouldn't use.

I remember meeting Jackie Sayagh, the banquet and events manager. We'd done other projects in collaboration with them, and I'd spoken to her on the phone a lot, but hadn't met her face to face. She had just gotten married a few months before, and was this completely composed, glamorous woman. Very tall and elegant. I was in rather plain clothes that day, and felt like a turnip next to her, but she was so friendly that the feeling dissipated soon enough. She told me happily in passing how she was almost done with the process of getting the name "Duggan" added on all her legal documents, and I congratulated her on her marriage. And Jay Magazine, the catering sales person, was a plain-spoken, genial man who was obviously proud of working there.

When the office manager and I left, we concurred that it was not the kind of place this client was looking for. Then we went to the Rainbow Room and went through the same process. I drew up a report on both venues and sent it over to the client with a lot of pictures, much like the ones here, on a disc. Since the digital camera I used was the company's and not mine, I have no idea where the photos I took are now.

It was hard to call Jay a few days later to tell him that the client picked the Rainbow Room. I remember the deciding factors for them being the view into New Jersey, which definitely was a minus, and the Art Deco look of the Rainbow Room, which had the classic "Captains of Industry are partying here!" feel they were looking to have, and the sure-to-be-glittery view of NYC alone from all windows.


I was outside and saw with my own eyes when the North Tower fell. I'll never forget it; how fast it was, the way it collapsed on itself, the silence of people frozen in place watching this in the street on 18th and 6th. I'm sure their stomachs dropped as mine did, and all I could think was "Oh, my god, Jay and Jackie are dead!" I knew they had to have been there that morning. There had been quite a few emails I'd gotten from each of them in the days previous with the time stamp of 7:45 AM, 8:00 AM, and yes, it turned out they were on the job; a corporate breakfast was going on there that morning. They would've been on hand to make sure everything went off without a hitch. These were people dedicated to their work.

I still think of them, and not just on 9/11. I cannot imagine the grief of their families and all who loved them.

Jackie Sayegh Duggan (25 July 1967 - 11 September 2001)
Jay Robert Magazine (9 June 1953 - 11 September 2001)

posted by droplet at 9:42 AM on September 11, 2014 [43 favorites]

Every couple of years go through my kids bedrooms and run a video camera around for a slow 360 view. Takes literally 30 seconds but I have exactly two pics of my room (1 dorm room pic, one bedroom pic) from when I was a kid, and they are FASCINATING.
posted by stupidsexyFlanders at 10:09 AM on September 11, 2014 [5 favorites]

droplet, that is an incredible story. Thank you for sharing that, despite it bringing up the painful memories. It really is the so-called small and humdrum details of the everyday that actually turn out to be the most potent and indelible parts our our life, and the human experience.
posted by theartandsound at 11:30 AM on September 11, 2014 [4 favorites]

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