When Powerboat magazine head photographer Tom Newby captured the image below in the late 1990s, he had no idea it would be become the centerpiece of a charity-driven poster commemorating September 11, 2001, the most tragic day in United States history. He just knew he was shooting yet another barely noticed Super Boat International race on the Hudson River in New York City.
A couple of years later, the World Trade Center towers fell and a cool image of some pretty raceboats running on the Hudson instantly became iconic. Sales of the Powerboat-produced poster that carried it generated thousands of dollars for first responders in the Big Apple. If memory serves, we raised about $20,000—a pittance in the great scheme of things but one that enabled all of us at the magazine to feel we were doing something.
Featuring an image captured by Tom Newby, sales of this poster produced by Powerboat magazine raised thousands of dollars for the families of first responders in New York City.
Because isn’t that what we all want in the face of national tragedy, to act? To do something meaningful? To transcend our differences and embrace the one similarity we share—that we are all just Americans—and pitch in?
Six years later to the day, Newby died in a helicopter crash in Sarasota, Fla., and the coincidence of dates was as cruel as such things get. He was just 50 years old. The Powerboat magazine crew was crushed, as were so many folks who had come to know one of the high-performance boating world’s finest and most joyful, fun-loving photographers.
Newby would be the first person to tell you that the photo we used for the commemorative September 11 poster was far from his finest work. It wasn’t even close. But sometimes the content of an image outweighs its technical merits, and that was something—perfectionist as he was—Newby understood.
Every year on the same day, we remember Tom Newby’s image. And on that day, we also remember the man behind the camera. We miss you Tom—it’s hard to believe you’ve been gone for 13 years.
Photographer Tom Newby captured tens of thousands of images for Powerboat magazine, but at least one will never be forgotten.