HALIFAX, NOVA SCOTIA
Websites can perform some amazing tricks, given the right programming. Sometimes, though, the best trick is to keep things simple. "New York City: After The Fall" demonstrates that some messages are best delivered with minimum fanfare.
After The Fall uses the photography of Geoffrey Hiller Burma: Grace Under Pressure to document the citizens of New York as they struggled to come to terms with the Sept. 11 attacks.
This is a site that will require some patience for dial-up users, but only at the beginning, since the entire project is a single large Flash file. (For reasons that will become clear, the solitary file was preferable, in this case, to the more common practice of segmenting a major presentation into smaller, more digestible, pieces.)
While the exhibition generates an opening image and introduction within a few seconds, the first opportunity for 56k surfers to move forward will present itself after about three minutes, and the exhibition will be completely loaded (as shown by an unobtrusive progress bar at the bottom of the window) after four. Unlike many Flash productions, After The Fall isn't self-launching, so you can step away while the file is loading without fear of the presentation starting without you.
The presentation itself plays for about ten minutes, and consists of 20 images that appear and fade to the accompaniment of a soundtrack and a few lines of prose per image. The same progress bar that tracked download now reveals how much of the exhibition has played. And that's it. No electronic interactions with the user, no in-depth essays, no bonus features and no links to other exhibitions.
Which is exactly how it should be.
That's not to say that there's nothing more to the design of the site. The photographs are striking some using harsh lighting or motion blur to reflect the tension present in the city, and on many of the citizens' faces. (Hiller avoids the obvious, in that there are no images of the Towers before or after their destruction.) Each photograph is segmented into a dozen panels that appear one by one to build a complete image revealing faces before their surroundings, or a single person's eyes before the rest of their face.