DPP Home Profiles Joel Meyerowitz - AFTERMATH

Friday, June 1, 2007

Joel Meyerowitz - AFTERMATH

By working connections and being a model of persistence, Joel Meyerowitz secured special access to New York's Ground Zero site.


This body of work wasn't achieved easily or without resistance. At first, Meyerowitz attempted to get the cooperation of the city, expressing his earnest belief that such an event needed to be documented and recorded. Hoping to put together a team that would create a historical archive in words and pictures, his pleas were lost among unsympathetic ears and a complex city bureaucracy.

With the aid of a friend who worked for the Manhattan Borough Commissioner for Parks, Meyerowitz secured a worker's badge and a Parks employee escort to provide him access to the site. This wasn't enough, however, as he was repeatedly told not to photograph and often was kicked out. He would often feign leaving and go to another location in the massive site and continue photographing.

"I'm by nature a very persistent person," says Meyerowitz. "I speak to things, and once I had this idea of doing this, I just stuck to it. No matter how many difficulties I encountered, I refused to give up. It was quite painful many times, not being understood or not being given the help that I knew was necessary."

Meyerowitz was driven not merely by what he recognized was the historic significance of these images, but by the underlying emotional need that such images could fulfill for those who had lived through and been impacted by the tragedy.

"Here was this huge wound in New York's body, and the city demanded that nobody go near it," he says. "People couldn't really grieve. There was a zone that they were being kept out of. I felt so keenly that they were depriving the chance for everyone to see the place, to grieve and take in the wound in a personal way.

"It seems so wrong-headed to me that the government was so suspicious. It was to distrust the basic human need to make contact with the things that are happening in your community, that you have to understand by being there. I felt that if I could be the eye inside this place, I could make an archive that was more than just a cold accounting of what was down there. I wanted to account for the human feeling that was inherent to the site."

Eventually, Meyerowitz's persistence and the friendships he formed with the police, firefighters, workers and crews on the site provided him with the support he needed to produce his photographs.


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