ANATOMY OF A NEW YORKER COVER: A LOOK BACK
This was the final cover submission for The New Yorker I provided for the 5th Anniversary of the 9/11 attacks. I had played around with a lot of ideas before that one.
Here’s a few of ‘em…
It started with the images of the missing towers only outlined by the breaks in the clouds. I liked the idea well enough and submitted that.
…that one didn’t fly (although I still like it) so I worked on a few different angles…
I had recently read about Philippe Petit, the man who walked between the WTC towers on a tightrope in August of 1974. I thought about how it would never be possible to duplicate that feat. But thinking about the strength and determination of New Yorkers on September 11th (and beyond) I thought,
“they could still do it…. and they wouldn’t need a tightrope”.
That lead me to this sketch:
The Art Director of The New Yorker, Françoise Mouly, called back
and said they liked the idea. They wanted to see what I could come up with…
I tried a few more ideas around the theme…
…then I combined the previous ideas…
Those didn’t quite work… so I tried a few more…
thought about using the legs as the towers… or the city as the tightrope… nah.
Finally, I went with the looking down version… over the WTC site. (the one you see above.) …
…although I love this image, The New Yorker still thought it wasn’t quite right
and it was passed over to the excellent Owen Smith. And Owen promptly knocked it out of the park.
It was made into a double cover… the first one the figure of Petit floats against nothing…. the second reveals the city and the Tower footprints below.
That cover was later named as the Cover of the Year by the American Society of Magazine Editors (ASME) and was named as one of the Top 10 Covers of the Year by Advertising Age magazine.
… … … … … .
From the ASME website:
From The New Yorker: For the five-year 9/11 anniversary cover,
John Mavroudis’ concept was to stay away from the surfeit of images that recall the horror and remember the wonder of Philippe Petit’s 1974 tight-rope walk between the towers. The result in Owen Smith’s painting is magical: the walker, in the absence of towers and rope, remains suspended in the white space of a blank page.
The two-part cover (a first for The New Yorker) is a memorial to the spirit
of humanity and those who died there, and especially to the man who did
a perfect dive as he plunged to his death.
Here’s what Advertising Age had to say:
"Even those who don’t remember Philippe Petit’s 1974 high-wire walk
between the towers of the World Trade Center feel this void. A second
cover, behind the first, filled in the white space with the
footprints of the towers. “Soaring Spirit,” by John Mavroudis and
Owen Smith, tugged us upward without forgetting the fall.”