Joel Meyerowitz is an award-winning photographer whose work has appeared in over 350 exhibitions in museums and galleries around the world. He was born in New York in 1938 and began photographing in 1962. Meyerowitz is a “street photographer” in the tradition of Henri Cartier-Bresson and Robert Frank, although he works exclusively in color. As an early advocate of color photography (early-60’s) he was instrumental in changing the attitude toward color photography from one of resistance to nearly universal acceptance. His first book “Cape Light” is considered a classic work of color photography and has sold over 100,000 copies during its 26-year life. He has published nineteen other books including “Bystander: The History of Street Photography” and “Provence: Lasting Impressions.”
In 1998 Meyerowitz produced and directed his first film, ”POP”, an intimate diary of a three-week road trip he made with his son Sasha and his father, Hy. This odyssey has as its central character an unpredictable, street wise and witty 87-year-old with Alzheimer’s. It is both an open-eyed look at aging and a meditation on the significance of memory.
Within a few days of the 9/11 attacks on the World Trade Center in New York, Meyerowitz began to create an archive of the destruction and recovery at Ground Zero. He was the only photographer who was granted unimpeded access to the site. Meyerowitz took a meditative stance toward the work and workers there, systematically documenting the painful work of rescue, recovery, demolition and excavation. The World Trade Center Archive includes more than 8,000 images and will be available for research, exhibition, and publication at museums in New York and Washington, DC.
In 2001 The Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs of the U.S. State Department asked the Museum of the City of New York and Meyerowitz to create a special exhibition of images from the archive to send around the world. The images traveled to more than 200 cities in 60 countries and over three and a half million people viewed the exhibition.
In addition to the traveling shows, Meyerowitz was invited to represent the United States at the 8th Venice Biennale for Architecture with his photographs from the World Trade Center Archives. In September 2002, he exhibited 73 images – some as large as 22 feet – in lower Manhattan. Some recent books are: “Taking My Time”, his fifty year, two volume, retrospective book by Phaidon Press of London, “Provence: lasting Impressions,” co-authored with his wife Maggie Barrett, a book on the late work of Paul Strand by Aperture, "Glimpse": Photographs From Moving Car, which was a solo show at MoMA, and "Joel Meyerowitz Retrospective", published in conjunction with his recent show at NRW Forum in Dusseldorf.
Meyerowitz is a Guggenheim fellow and a recipient of both the NEA and NEH awards. His work is in the collection of the Museum of Modern Art, the Boston Museum of Fine Art, The Art Institute of Chicago, and many others.
Church Wall, Bakery Wall
I wish all of you the very nicest of holiday times.
Sometimes spaces seem to be stage sets designed by a mind far beyond mine in creativity. My work as a photographer has been to be a receiver of things, not a creator. Moments appear and I say Yes!
Why did this crazy thing excite me so much?
Walking through a warehouse stuffed full of objects and furnishings this horn cried out to heard, so I stopped and waited while it struck up a dialogue in me. These things happen you know? Just pay attention to that tiniest sound of its identity, and how it meets your identity, and you have the basis for making something out of it.
Just a response is all one needs, whatever it is, a fragrance on the breeze that says, ‘hey, stop here a minute and take me in,’ a glancing play of light, a change in the scale of things that suddenly wakes you up to your own human measure. Any of these, and a 1000 more intimate details of our working minds when they are at play, and you have what you need to make something entirely yours.
Out of Nothing.
Maggie and I made a ‘line’ book during our first year in Europe when we started this new life of ours, now in its third year. That book made it the whole 365 days and was a daily challenge and also fun. The concentration, the materials, the unexpected lines that appeared, all proved that the very simplest gesture – a line – could sustain our interest for a whole year.
I don’t know if Aixienne is used as the name of those women who live in Aix-en-Provence, but the old costumes, and those faces, brought to memory some 19th century paintings of women from Arles, L’ Arlesienne, if I remember correctly, maybe it was van Gogh, in any case when I passed by the 2 women in Aix and took in the hair styles, and garments, I had a flash of how it must have looked when everyone wore clothes like this, and how each town or region in the back country must have had their own specific identity.
How different from our contemporary esthetic where ‘branding’ is the force that unites all towns, cities, and even members of a generation. And how in every town today we find the same fashion names on the shopfronts along the streets.
Sometimes I long for the mom and pop stores of the past with all their individuality.
The Horse She Came In On
Maggie found this old, beautifully formed and crafted horse, and simply fell for the ‘presence’ it emanated. The life it had lived for some child, or maybe a number of children down the years. She bought it so it could continue living.
Early Silent Night
Looking down on a small town often lets me feel the ‘sense of place’ that gives a locality its identity. Bonnieux has that quality; the butcher, the bakery, the newsstand, the market, the city hall, the church, all these basics set in an almost storybook perfection in a landscape of simple beauty. It is immensely fulfilling.
There’s an expression in filmmaking called room tone which is when the sound person asks for quiet so that the quiet of the room, the tone that exists in it, can be saved to used to fill any gaps in the sound.
This room gave off a tone to me the minute I entered it. The cloth , this simple ragg-y thing, set the whole room to its presence, and a mighty thing it was.
Antique fair, stuff everywhere, and too much to look at, and then out of the corner of my eye I get a sense that something – meaningless maybe – but a slight ambiguity, which came from a sliver of a moment when I wasn’t sure of what I was seeing, the light, the red hair, the coat engulfing, the 2 faced portrait, the gesture non gesture. Everything that was there in just that second, and nothing.
The stuff of Photography.
Who did this to Nature?
Someone who felt it his (or her) right to play with and transform this ancient creature, give it it a fresh start in old age, a new hairdo, a lift, a crazy hat! But whatever it was that urged them I celebrate it with a moment of wonder.