Renowned photographers Joel Meyerowitz and Michael Mendelson may have never crossed each other’s path, yet they share significant creative similarities. Both document the world around them with a caring, passionate eye. Both place a premium on high-impact imagery. And for both, the social commentary at the heart of their work requires that their images be accessible to viewers.
Meyerowitz’s on-tour World Trade Center exhibition of riveting supersized images from his historic documentation at Ground Zero, draws the viewer in with its details, texture, and unnerving reality. Mendelson’s 35-year retrospective of the music industry, features high-impact prints punched up with bright colors and exceptional clarity.
For both artists, display is an essential part of their art. In recent years, Meyerowitz and Mendelson have both turned to Hewlett-Packard wide-format inkjet printers for their exhibition and archival prints.
Meyerowitz Documents History
NYC-based street photographer Joel Meyerowitz, whose work appears in the collections of the Museum of Modern Art and the Metropolitan Museum of Art, makes large-format photographs that he hopes will allow the viewer to step into his vision. He wants the images to present well and be accessible to a myriad of viewers.
For that kind of impact, image quality and print size are all-important...especially when standing before his arresting photo series on recovery efforts following the 9-11 attacks on the World Trade Center. This photographic chronicle compels him to this day.
“There were no photographers allowed at the WTC site,” Meyerowitz recalls. Concerned that the scenes would be exploited and calling the rubble a crime scene, NYPD officers were under strict orders to deny entry to all photographers—press or otherwise. Regardless, standing among the crowd before the settling rubble of the World Trade Center, Meyerowitz felt a need to help.
“They had no right to stop us from having an historical perspective, a record,” he said. He agrees that sensationalizing the deaths shouldn’t have been permitted, but that the banning of all photography, prohibiting others from seeing the tragedy, was a short-sighted decision. “Once that idea lit into my mind, I went forward, clearing every obstacle along the way. No person in authority wanted to let me in. The more they resisted, the more I wanted to do it. I wanted the archives to have the history.”
Creating an Exhibition
As his work on Ground Zero progressed, the U.S. State Department and the Museum of the City of New York (where the archives are housed) asked Meyerowitz to create an exhibition of the photographs. “After September 11: Images from Ground Zero” would travel to more than 200 cities in 60 countries.
By 2004, due to the rigorous scheduling demands of the international traveling exhibit, Meyerowitz and others expressed the need for a traveling exhibit for the U.S. and Canada. HP was very interested in participating and Meyerowitz had worked well with HP for some time, so the idea for a national tour was born. He had to create exhibition prints that would endure the rigors of travel and the scrutiny of thousands of viewers. Knowing, first hand, the quality of HP wide-format printers, he decided to output his exhibition prints on the DesignJet 130 (using HP Premium Satin Plus paper) and the DesignJet 5500 for prints larger than 20x24 (using Durable semigloss).
A 40-year veteran of traditional, chemical-based print materials, he had no hesitation. “There’s absolutely no indication whatsoever that the prints were made with an inkjet delivery system,” he says. “And HP is doing amazing things with their papers. There’s a much broader color gamut than we thought possible. For 30 years, I’ve printed in color, and only when you’re looking at prints in comparison can you see the limitations of the chemical [print] world. The transitions are so smooth now, that there’s no reason to print conventionally.”
Meyerowitz chose the HP Premium Satin Plus paper for his prints. “It has the authenticity you hope printing paper will have. You don’t see bronzing or any indication to make you think it’s not a “real” [dye transfer] print. I look for that kind of authenticity, because as soon as you flaws, you’re not experiencing the photograph, you’re scrutinizing a print.”
The prints had to look good in a multitude of venues, with different lighting, light walls and dark. He fixed laminated prints to a plexiglas mount with a three-inch border, drilled holes into the corners, and wire, hardware, and clamps were attached so the prints could be screwed to the wall, hung from ceilings or displayed as necessary.
Since 2004, the prints have traveled to Provincetown Art Association and Museum, Provincetown, Massachusetts; Contact Photo Festival, Toronto, Canada; and are currently at Huntsville Museum of Art, Huntsville, Alabama.
Now, five years after the 9/11 attacks, 400 previously unpublished large-format images Meyerowitz captured during his eight months on “the pile” have been reproduced in Aftermath: the World Trade Center Archive, released by Phaidon Press. For scheduling information on the U.S. exhibit and his book tour, visit www.joelmeyerowitz.com.