Aftermath: World Trade Center Archiveby 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 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.
The New York Times
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Read an Excerpt
AftermathWorld Trade Center Archive
By JOEL MEYEROWITZ
PHAIDON PRESSCopyright © 2006 Phaidon Press Limited
All right reserved.
IntroductionEarly 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.
Excerpted from Aftermath by JOEL MEYEROWITZ Copyright © 2006 by Phaidon Press Limited . Excerpted by permission.
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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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