Uncovered photographs taken by Estonian immigrant Konstantine Petrov in 2001 are breathtaking

Christina Drill
September 11, 2014

Konstantin Petrov was an Estonian immigrant who worked the night shift as an electrician for Windows On The World, the restaurant at the 105th and 106th floors of the north tower of the World Trade Center.

This summer a documentary filmmaker by the name of Erik Nelson was scouring the internet for photos to use in his National Geographic documentary "9/10: The Final Hours," when one of his assistant researchers stumbled upon the Fotki (an Estonian photo sharing site) belonging to Petrov. On Petrov's Fotki, researchers found hundreds of photosfrom inside the World Trade Center, all taken between April and September of 2001.

The photos are astounding for a number of reasons-- one, most were taken at dawn or soon after sunrise, and the early morning lighting lends the images an eerie, ethereal quality. Second, all the photos of the interior of the WTC were taken when no one else was in the building.

The photos evoke a bittersweet feeling. Petrov shot over one hundred photographs of the interior of the WTC in the spring and summer of 2001-- photos of offices, stairwells, desks, wall fixtures, in a way that feels deliberately archival and almost premonitory. He also uploaded old photos dating back to the 1990s to his Fotki account, but the photos stop abruptly around June 2002.

Fotki was apparently started by Konstantin Petrov's friend Dmitri Don, an Estonian living in New York who founded Fotki as a way to share photos with his family and friends back in Estonia. This was of course at least four years before photo sharing sites like Worldisround and Flickr became big. The New Yorker article claims that Don is who convinced Petrov to move to New York, and also who hooked him up with the job at the World Trade Center.

Nelson ended up using 44 photos of Petrov's in his film. He learned from Don that Petrov had died in a motorcycle accident on the West Side Highway in 2002, when his motorcycle flipped as he was passing a cop.

All of Petrov's photos can be viewed on his Fotki, which is still up and running. The last photos uploaded seem to be of Ground Zero. They are worth a few looks.

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