I took an exploratory walk with my view camera around the World Trade Center site today. It was in the mid-20s and icy underfoot, but the air was clear and sharp. I hadn’t been down there with my camera since just after 9/11, on Broadway, the first day they let people get that close. It was rough going that day trying to set up a view camera among thousands of jostling people–all with cameras, of course– but I got a couple of good photographs.
At one point I stepped off Broadway onto a side street away from the crush of gawkers. A man walked up carrying a single digital camera, no camera bag as I recall, and he asked me if I was a documentary photographer. I said yes, more or less. I looked at him more intently, and then said, you’re James Nachtwey aren’t you. He said yes. Later that week I saw his extraodinary pictures of the scene in Time magazine.
After that, Joel Meyerowitz got access to Ground Zero and made the photographs that are now published in an oversized book called Aftermath. I had no press pass or special access, so I left the subject alone except peripherally in images made in other places. Now that the big boys have left for other photographic battlefields, maybe it’s time for me to do what I have always tried to do–take a longer, more patient, view of history.