Everybody has seen the images of 9/11. But not everyone has seen the images left in its wake. Not those taken at Ground Zero anyway, where the extreme devastation was offset by even more extreme heroics. One good look at the work of photographer Joel Meyerowitz will reveal why many believe it is those images which should define the moment in history. Meyerowitz's "Aftermath" opens at MAM tomorrow.
Can you please tell us a quick bit about "Aftermath"? Aftermath came out of nine months of working inside Ground Zero as the only photographer who had access to the site. I volunteered to do this work because I wanted to be helpful in some way. When I heard Mayor Giuliani declare that there "Would be no photographs allowed" inside the site I knew that he was not seeing the larger picture and was in some sense erasing history. So as a citizen I stood up for us all and forced my way in to make the record.
How hard was it to keep shooting through all the devastation? It was highly emotional at first; even later on when the men I met there found their sons or relatives the emotions ran high. But the actual working there, and the compiling of the Archive was a task that gave me a great sense of being part of a larger team of workers. That in itself was deeply satisfying -- still is.
Despite the destruction, did you also find inspiration? The place was astonishing in its physical aspects, like nothing I'd ever seen before, and with New York City as a backdrop and the seasons passing it all became a remarkable place to be in. In fact at the time it was eerily beautiful, simply was and what could one do? Not respond to it? My job was to document everything I experienced there and the "awful beauty' of it was part of it all.
Word is many of these photos made their way around the world, that so? The State Department and I produced 35 exhibitions which traveled the world to 80+ countries and 300 cities and was seen by four million people. It was a real honor to become a 'cultural ambassador in the DoS program "Culture Connect"
How was the Museum of the City of New York involved? I called the Director on the first day I was down at the site and said if he could help me gain access I would donate work to the museum -- now they have 1000 photographs in their archive.
"Focus Gallery: Joel Meyerowitz -- Aftermath" opens Thursday August 18,4-7pm and runs through November 6 at Miami Art Museum 101 West Flagler Miami. For more information call (305) 375-3000 or log on here. Note: Miami Art Museum will be free to all emergency personnel, including police and firefighters, and their guests throughout the exhibition's run.