In the months after the attack on the World Trade Center, Ground Zero was off limits to all professional photographers–except one, the veteran Joel Meyerowitz, who was 63 at the time. Actually, it was off limits to him, too, and he was often kicked out as he shot. But through a mix of connections, chutzpah and, where necessary, manipulations and white lies, Meyerowitz got access most days for nine months, and managed to record the clean-up for posterity. “It’s such a part of my life that I can’t believe it has been 10 years....It has hardly ever been out of my mind,” Meyerowitz said, over an iffy Skype line from Italy. “The very act of the civil disobedience”–taking pictures where he wasn’t supposed to, because he thought they needed to be taken–“led to much more civic-minded work from me.”
Meyerowitz has published a book about the clean-up called Aftermath (its second edition was released this summer, for the 10th anniversary of the attacks), has toured an exhibition of his Ground Zero shots and contributed something like 8,000 of them, many shot on an archaic wooden camera, to an archive at the Museum of the City of New York. Right now, the Miami Art Museum is presenting a show of 24 of the images, contact-printed direct from the large-format negatives. The eight in this slide show have never been published before, so we asked Meyerowitz to comment on each one.
– Blake Gopnik