Images from Ground Zero

Sofia City Art Gallery presents Joel Meyerowitz's unique photos of the World Trade Center in the aftermath of 11 September 2001

Joel Meyerowitz © Iron Workers

After September 11: Images from Ground Zero documents the devastation and reconstruction of the World Trade Center in the aftermath of 11 September 2001. This extraordinary archive of pictures is the only existing photographic record of the attacks. Fenced off and classified as a crime scene, the area was closed to all photographers, and only scant information was available about the activities in the guarded enclosure that became known as the “forbidden city”. What happened at Ground Zero in the months after 9/11 remained a closely guarded secret, yet one photographer documented everything.

Through sheer persistence involving almost daily acts of resourcefulness and defiance, Meyerowitz became the sole photographer to have continued access to the site and to describe its transformation over the next nine months from a place of total devastation to cleared bedrock.

The photographs of Meyerowitz can be seen as an elegy to the thousands of people that lost their lives, but they also capture the tireless efforts of the multitude of police officers, firemen, construction workers, engineers and volunteers who participated in the clean-up process. The images of physical devastation and emotional power in the pictures serve as a backdrop for the moments of courage, compassion and solidarity at the reconstruction site. The World Trade Center Archive, consisting of thousands of Meyerowitz's images, is part of the permanent collection of the Museum of the City of New York.

Who is Joel Meyerowitz?

After more than fifty years of snapping pictures, Joel Meyerowitz (b. 1938) has been recognised as one of the most influential street photographers and a pioneer of the New colour photography movement. A good street photographer should have two basic qualities: the patience to wait for unpredicted moments and the skill to seize them by pressing the shutter button. Meyerowitz has both of these talents, regardless of whether he shoots in black-and-white or in colour, and quickly established himself as a master of his trade. Throughout the 60s and the 70s colour photography was not taken seriously and had no place in the world of art dominated by black-and-white images. The work of several pioneers, including Joel Meyerowitz, played a crucial role in changing that attitude. As one of the founders of the New colour photography, he has greatly affected the work of the younger generations and is a two-time holder of the Guggenheim fellow prize. He was also presented with the National Endowment for the Arts and National Endowment for the Humanities awards, a medal from the Royal Photographic Society, Deutscher Fotobuchpreis, as well as Leica's Hall of Fame Award.

Joel Meyerowitz is the author of more than thirty books and his work has appeared in 350 solo and group exhibitions in museums and galleries across the globe: NRW-Forum in Dusseldorf (2014), Miami Art Museum (2011), the Whitney Museum of American Art in New York (2004), San Francisco Museum of Modern Art (1981), Stedelijk Museum in Amsterdam (1980) and the Museum of Modern Art, New York (1968). His photographs are part of large public collections, including those of MoMA, New York, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, and the Whitney Museum of American Art, New York.

Joel Meyerowitz's After September 11: Images from Ground Zero is on display at Sofia City Art Gallery from 11 September to 25 October. The exhibition is part of the 2020 Cultural Events Calendar of the Metropolitan Municipality and is being realised in partnership with the US Embassy, with special thanks to Joel Meyerowitz studio, Howard Greenberg gallery, New York, and Polka gallery, Paris.

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