Just a few days after the tragedy, Meyerowitz found his way to the scene with his camera. Standing just outside the fenced-off section, he raised it to see if there was anything he might capture, but was met with a blow to the back from a police officer. She explained that the area was classified as a crime scene, and no one was to document it. Meyerowitz was undaunted, believing that such a historical moment deserved to be archived for the public. “I thought to myself, ‘We need a record!’ I had a lightbulb moment,” he recalled. Meyerowitz took photographs there everyday for nine months and described it as one of the most powerful experiences of his life. The culminating 2006 photo book, Aftermath: The World Trade Center Archive, is one of the only comprehensive photographic archives of Ground Zero after the attacks.
Now, we’re facing a very different tragedy, which has heightened many of the uncertainties in our world. It can be difficult to think of what’s ahead when so many aspects of our daily lives are changing. Meyerowitz shared a promising message to those looking to document our ever-evolving world: “You don’t have to be an artist, you can be any person with a camera and a question. If you have an impulse, a stray thought that just comes through your mind that triggers a moment of reflection, follow that,” he explained enthusiastically. “Don’t try to intellectualize and think, ‘Oh, I should do this, or I should do that.’ Do the thing that comes like a fragrance.”