Joel Meyerowitz Looks Back
Celebrating a half-century of work, the photographer recalls his Bronx childhood and days at Ground Zero
Joel Meyerowitz has had many careers as a photographer over the past 50 years. He first made a name for himself at 24 as a New York City street photographer in the tradition of Robert Frank. A few years later he switched to color photography at a time when most art critics and gallerists dismissed it as too “commercial.” Later, Meyerowitz delved into landscape photography and portraits. Then, in the months after Sept. 11, 2001, he became the self-designated archivist of Ground Zero, persuading city authorities to grant him complete access to the site despite the fact that it had been designated a crime scene.
This month, Meyerowitz’s half-century of work is being honored with a two-part retrospective at the Howard Greenberg Gallery in New York City and with the publication of a deluxe, two-volume limited-edition monograph of that work titled Taking My Time. (You can also get a sense of his work in our slideshow, above left.) Vox Tablet invited Meyerowitz to talk about how his Jewish family and upbringing have influenced his photography. He speaks with guest host Julie Burstein, author of Spark: How Creativity Works, about the Bronx tenements where he grew up; about his father the dry-cleaning-supplies salesman, boxer, and Catskills emcee; and about the spiritual weight he felt at Ground Zero during the months he spent there. [Running time: 45:16.]
Your browser does not support the audio element.
For listeners who might want a preview of the longer conversation, here’s a short clip where Meyerowitz recalls the day he decided to become a photographer. It was 1962. He was working at a New York City ad agency and had been sent by his art director to accompany a photographer who was taking photos for a pamphlet he’d written. The photographer was Robert Frank. Seeing this master in action was a revelation to Meyerowitz and changed his career from that point forward. Here’s what happened next:
Your browser does not support the audio element.
- Vox TabletSo Long, FarewellAfter 11 years and 500 episodes, Vox Tablet signs off for good
- Vox TabletTanya’s StoryHow a young woman learned the painful lesson that there are times when trying to do what’s ‘right’ can go very, very wrong
- Vox TabletA New Kind of Prayer BookThe Conservative movement’s latest siddur goes way beyond traditional liturgy
- Vox TabletHey, Mister DJ: Put a (Diaspora-Blending, Genre-Bending) Record OnBooty-shaking new music from A-Wa, Sandaraa, and Schizophonia
- Vox TabletWhat’s Free Will Got To Do With It?Especially in election season, we love talking about the moral fiber (or lack thereof) of our candidates. But when it comes to ethics, no man—or woman—is an island.
- Vox TabletBuilders of a New JerusalemIn a new book, Adina Hoffman brings to life three architects who transformed the city in the days of the British Mandate
- Vox TabletBathe in the WatersA radio documentary asks: Is there a way for women to dunk ritually that doesn’t conflict with their feminism?
- Vox TabletBeyond DrakeA handful of personalities come to mind when we think of African-American Jews. Let’s change that.
- Vox TabletThe Saddlemaker, the Schindler, and the Miller of WlodowaGolems, messiahs, tradesmen, Nazis, and townspeople converge in the story collection ‘In the Land of Armadillos’
- Vox TabletA Year of FirstsAn audio portrait of Luzer Twersky, just after he quit his life as a Hasid, and long before he played one in films
- Vox TabletFor the Love of Suzie Louise: A Christmas StoryIn middle-century Skokie, a young Jewish boy searches for a stolen Jesus to comfort his bereft Christian girlfriend
- Vox TabletThe Most Haunted Leading ManIn ‘Son of Saul,’ actor Géza Röhrig defies our every expectation of a Holocaust movie hero
- Vox TabletGirlhood, InterruptedCynthia Kaplan Shamash fled Iraq 40-odd years ago, when she was just a kid. Her flight foreshadowed that of young refugees fleeing Syria now. Where did she land? Where will they?
- Vox TabletLet ‘Freedom’ Ring: A Flutist Gives Life to Musical Celebrations of LiberationsMimi Stillman’s new album features works inspired by upheaval in Europe and the Middle East
- Vox TabletPuzzle MasterFor years, scholars dismissed the Arabic on text fragments from Cairo’s genizah as unimportant scribbling. Then along came Marina Rustow, bona fide ‘genius.’
- Vox TabletMy Grandfather, the Secret PolicemanRita Gabis knew only that her mother’s Catholic family came from Lithuania after the Holocaust. Then she started asking hard questions.
- Vox TabletBeyond the PulpitWhat does a rabbi do in late August when he no longer needs to prep for High Holidays?
- Vox TabletAndré Aciman, Sarah Wildman, and Others Build a Summer Reading ListLooking for a good book to sink into at the beach in these waning dog days? Friends share what they’ve loved lately.