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Aftermath: World Trade Center Archive

by Joel Meyerowitz
After the destruction of the World Trade Center in New York on September 11th 2001, the world-renowned photographer Joel Meyerowitz felt compelled to visit the site. In his own words, he was 'overcome by a deep impulse to help, to save, to soothe, but, being far away, there was nothing I could do.' On his return Meyerowitz soon made his way to the scene where, upon


After the destruction of the World Trade Center in New York on September 11th 2001, the world-renowned photographer Joel Meyerowitz felt compelled to visit the site. In his own words, he was 'overcome by a deep impulse to help, to save, to soothe, but, being far away, there was nothing I could do.' On his return Meyerowitz soon made his way to the scene where, upon raising his camera, he was reminded by a police officer that this was a crime scene and that no photographs were allowed. Meyerowitz duly left the scene but within a few blocks the officer's reminder had turned into consciousness. To Meyerowitz, 'no photographs meant no history' and he decided at that moment to find a way in and make an archive for the City of New York.

Within days he had established strong links with many of the firefighters, policemen and construction workers contributing to the clean up. With their assistance he became the only photographer to be granted unimpeded access to Ground Zero. Once there he systematically began to document the wreckage followed by the necessary demolition, excavation and removal of tens of thousands of tonnes of debris that would transform the site from one of total devastation to level ground. Soon after the Museum of the City of New York officially engaged Meyerowitz to create an archive of the destruction and recovery at Ground Zero. The 9/11 Photographic Archive numbers in excess of 5,000 images and will become part of the permanent collections of the Museum of the City of New York.

Meyerowitz takes a meditative stance toward the work and workers at Ground Zero, methodically recording the painful work of rescue, recovery, demolition and excavation. His pictures succinctly convey the magnitude of the destruction and loss and the heroic nature of the response. The images included here are a combination of prints from a large format camera, which allows for the greater detail, and standard 35mm, a format which provided Meyerowitz with the freedom to move easily around the site and capture each moment as it happened.

The remarkable pictures in the archive visually relate the catastrophic destruction of the 9/11 attacks and the physical and human dimensions of the recovery effort. The aim of this book is to provide record of the extraordinary extent of the World Trade Center attacks and to documents the recovery efforts. The book will serve as both a poignant elegy to those who lost their lives and as a celebration of the tireless determination of those left behind to reclaim and rebuild the area known as 'Ground Zero'.

Twenty eight of the images in from the archive were displayed in New York and then in over fifty cities around the world in a travelling exhibition entitled After September 11: Images from Ground Zero.

Editorial Reviews

In the aftermath of the September 11th attacks, the World Trade Center site was declared a crime scene, and all those not directly involved with the recovery project were banned from Ground Zero. There was one exception: Award-winning photographer Joel Meyerowitz persuaded city officials to grant him unlimited access to the still-smoldering ruins. For nine months, day and night, he mounted oceanic piles of debris and climbed into caves carved out of mangled steel to document the heroic work of the 800 recovery workers. Aftermath: World Trade Center Archive is the realization of his efforts to record what we must remember and can't forget.
Jonathan Mahler
Looking through Aftermath, one sees these men and women -- sometimes working alone, sometimes in clusters -- bearing the nation’s collective grief as they gradually restore order to chaos. Their grim task notwithstanding, the effect is uplifting. They are not just knocking down the vestigial shells of half-destroyed buildings and clearing away mountains of metal, they are reclaiming this hallowed ground, making it possible once again to imagine a future there.
— The New York Times
Library Journal
This large book, measuring 15.8" 11.2" 1.5" inches and weighing 8.45 pounds, chronicles the massive efforts to clean up the debris and human remains surrounding the World Trade Center after the 9/11 attacks. At the time, noted photographer Meyerowitz was out of New York City but immediately attempted to return to his home. However, no one was being granted reentry for five days; to boot, the site had been labeled a "crime scene." Yet with the pulling of some strings, he was permitted access to what became known as Ground Zero and took numerous large-format color photographs of the ravaged landscape over the next nine months. The book begins with a series of breathtaking cityscapes, with the Twin Towers prominent in the skyline. Readers then encounter photographs grouped in four sections: "History in the Making," "Fall," "Winter," and "Spring." A feeling of stunned reverence pervades these images, which collectively constitute an exhaustive archive of the aftermath of the attacks. Among the broad panoramas, Meyerowitz portrays dedicated workers, who offer a feeling of hope, at least in the sense that the worst crimes, even atrocities, often bring out the best in many people. Following the cycle of seasons, the book concludes with a plan for the site and indexes. Meyerowitz contributes a long, poignant essay that opens the book and then threads its way through the layout of the photographs. Beautifully designed and printed, this epic collection serves as a monumental tribute to those who died on 9/11 and those who have thereafter worked to honor their memory. Highly recommended for all libraries.--Raymond Bial, First Light Photography, Urbana, IL Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.

Product Details

Phaidon Press
Publication date:
Edition description:
Product dimensions:
11.25(w) x 15.25(h) x 1.50(d)

Read an Excerpt


World Trade Center Archive


Copyright © 2006 Phaidon Press Limited
All right reserved.

ISBN: 0-7148-4655-4


Early the next morning I went down to the site, only to find that the whole area had been cordoned off with cyclone fencing draped with tarpaulins, above which one could see smoke rising in the distance. There wasn't much to look at as I stood in a crowd on the corner of Chambers and Greenwich, about four blocks north of Ground Zero, but out of a lifetime of habit I raised my Leica to my eye, simply to get the feel of what was there. Whack! Someone behind me poked me sharply in the shoulder. "No photographs buddy, this is a crime scene!" I whipped around and found myself face to face with a belligerent female police officer. I was furious-both at being hit and at the absurdity of the command. "Listen, this is a public space," I replied. "Don't tell me I can't look through my camera!" But she came right back at me with "You give me trouble and I'll take that camera away from you!" "No you won't," I said. "Suppose I was the press?" "The press? There's the press," she said, imperiously jerking a thumb over her shoulder at about a dozen TV cameramen and reporters, roped off by yellow police tape, halfway up the block. "When are they going in?" I asked. "Never," she said. "I told you, this is a crime scene.No photography!"

Sometimes life gives you just the push you need. They can't do this to us, I thought. No photographs meant no visual record of one of the most profound things ever to happen here. We had been attacked. Now we had to bury our dead and reclaim our city. There needed to be a record of the aftermath. As I walked north past the press corps, penned in and waiting, my fury gave way to a sense of elation. I was going to get in there and make an archive of everything that happened at Ground Zero. This was something that I knew I could do.

... I was the observer, but as I made my tours around the zone I was also being observed-especially by anyone who had a stationary post-and slowly, as the weeks passed, I could feel myself being woven into the fabric of the site. The volunteer outside the food tent would try to entice me with a granola bar; a fireman on the pile might tell me something funny that I'd missed earlier in the day. "Hey, photographer," strangers would call out to me-pointing me toward something that had just been unearthed, or tipping me off about something that was going to be demolished. And there was always the need for talk. There were small knots of men everywhere on the site-waiting for heavy machinery to pass at a crossing, or hanging around next to the raking fields, or standing by a makeshift shrine-and many of them were eager to tell you what had happened to them, or what they were thinking, or how they were feeling. Part of what I was there to do, I came to feel, was not simply to watch, but also to listen. As a result, I cried with men on the site almost every day. Often, I didn't even know their names.

The nine months I worked at Ground Zero were among the most rewarding of my life. I came in as an outsider, an observer bent on keeping the record, but over time I began to feel a part of the very project I'd been intent on recording, and I was accepted on the site as a member of the tribe. Photography is often a very solitary profession. But the intense camaraderie I experienced at Ground Zero inspired me, changing both my sense of myself and my sense of responsibility to the world around me. September 11th was a tragedy of almost unfathomable proportions. But living for nine months in the midst of those individuals who faced that tragedy head-on, day after day, and did what they could to set things right, was an immense privilege. I am deeply grateful to have worked alongside these men and women. I documented the aftermath for everyone who couldn't be there. But this book is dedicated to those who were.

-Joel Meyerowitz


Excerpted from Aftermath by JOEL MEYEROWITZ Copyright © 2006 by Phaidon Press Limited . Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Meet the Author

Born in 1938 in New York City, Meyerowitz went to Ohio to study painting and medical drawing at the State University but moved back to New York to work in advertising as an art director-designer. He began to take photographs at this time and left his job to concentrate on photography as a career. Shooting film in black and white, he travelled around the United States for three months after which he was offered a Guggenheim Scholarship to take pictures on the theme of `leisure time`. However Meyerowitz has had his greatest influence as an early advocate of colour photography. He was instrumental in changing the attitude toward the use of colour from one of resistance to nearly universal acceptance. His subject matter altered from incidents on city streets shot with a small 35mm camera to the large format field photograph. He has been awarded the title Photographer of the Year by the Friends of Photography, San Francisco. His work is in the collections of the Museum of Modern Art and the Metropolitan Museum of Art, and has been exhibited and published worldwide

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