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.
They just wanted to connect, and in a way, it worked perfectly because it allowed me to become a modest but unofficial repository of some of their stories."
It was these people Meyerowitz collaborated with to create his photographs. He sees the people not just as subjects for his photographs, but men and women with whom he shared a life-changing experience.
"We photographers are solitary types," he explains. "We like working alone. But when I went to Ground Zero, I was no longer alone. I was with the same group of players day after day. Certainly not everyone knew me or I them, but I became a frequent figure in that place. I became part of their group. I sublimated my individuality to this group sense. I let myself become absorbed into this larger team and that was important. It helped me to reduce my ego as an artist and allowed me to become connected to these men. The sweet spot of that helped bring me into union with these men, and it enabled these pictures to be made."
The portraits that are found in the book Aftermath reflect that connection. Unlike other images that were created of these workers that glorified them as heroes, Meyerowitz's photographs are rooted in an earthy reality that shows these men and women as they are: average Americans called to use their skills and experience under the most extraordinary of circumstances.
"I took these portraits wherever they were," Meyerowitz says. "I wasn't trying to make heroicized photographs. It wasn't about being bigger than life. It was 'these are the guys.' This is what it takes. This is humanity doing its stuff. If you get down low with the camera and start looking up and you try to make them noble in some way, it falsifies some dimension of them. They don't need to be made more noble. Their work makes them noble."
The impact of the images comes across not only in the book, but also in the prints that have been created for exhibition. Often reproduced in sizes of 40x50 and larger, the prints help to convey the scale of devastation and the humanity given responsibility over the site.
Meyerowitz currently uses the Hewlett-Packard Designjet Z3100 in his own studio to produce prints of up to 40x50 and uses a Lambda printer for larger sizes. While digital cameras weren't used for the project, the digital darkroom has transformed the way Meyerowitz reproduces his images on paper.
"The wet darkroom was always a compromise," he explains. "Time and light and temperature and chemistry offered wonderful solutions in their day, but they always had their compromises built in. Now, I can effectively realize all the information that's in the negative in a much more subtle and comprehensive way."
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