Joel Meyerowitz A Look At What It Means to Be An American ~Sam Cohen
They [photographs] teach you about your own unraveling past, or about the immediacy of yesterday. They show you what you look at. If you take a photograph, you've been responsive to something, and you looked hard at it. Hard for a thousandth of a second, hard for ten minutes. But hard, nonetheless. And it's the quality of that bite that teaches you how connected you were to that thing, and where you stood in relation to it, then and now. - Joel Meyerowitz,
A self proclaimed street photographer, Joel Meyerowitz was born in the Bronx, New York in 1938. He attended Ohio State where he studied painting and medical drawing– two very different, yet complementary forms of art. In 1962 he stopped all of his other projects and began photography using color slides; by 1963, he felt the need to make prints and began shooting in black and white. In 1964, he began his three month journey through America taking photos. He was one of the early advocates of using color in photographs, and in 1973, he began printing in color – a very wise move. As a result of his shift to color, his central images, ideas, and themes shifted from street shots to overall field photography, as seen in his expansive collection of Bay/Sky photos and Cape Cod photos to name a few. Architecture, light, and space, captured his eye and became the foci of his work in color photography. His primary weapon of choice is a 8x10 view camera. Meyerowitz explains that the view camera is a much slower and meditative process, which he enjoys thoroughly. The long shutter time allows him to feel his way into the entirety of the expanse and creates luminous photos and grand expanses. His work is important to photographers across the globe because it was a fresh new look at the colorful world and took a new look at landscape and city shots.
Photography is a response that has to do with the momentary recognition of things. Suddenly you’re alive. A minute later there was nothing there. I just watched it evaporate. You look one moment and there's everything, next moment it's gone. Photography is very philosophical.
It is clear through Meyerowitz’s compositions that nature, society, and space are central focuses and ideas. The vast expansion of the sea, the endless isle of daybreak, the empowering cityscapes, illustrate the enormity of his field. Also, his use of color is an important aspect to notice. The colors blue and orange dominate his work, from the early seventies to modern day, and are very representational of the time, in that it expresses the strong emotions and loudness of the 70’s. The two pictures above illustrate his usage of both rural scapes and societal scapes, as he perfectly blends the two into a new light. The orange high beams emitting from the house and the orange/red interior of the car, stand out against the blue and create a very interesting and invigorating image. Meyerowitz’s images create a need to look deeper, and it is through his location and color choices that this is achieved. He gets great depth of field from his 8x10 and his use of thirds and vanishing point also aid in this regard. His works across America in total, illustrate who America is.
In 1976 Meyerowitz received a grant from the New York State Council to go to Cape Cod to take photos, and as a result, exploded into the limelight with his works on the shores of the Northeast. Norman Mailer firmly believes that Meyerowitz is “profoundly serious and a great photographer…[who] treads with the lightest touch and the most exquisite sense of the moment into those turns of the atmosphere that inform us of the wayward and not always unsinister whims that breathe in colloquies between clouded and sky, as if it is in the flux itself, and nowhere else, that we can find out few absolute statements of existence.” His photos of the sea, are unmatched and unrivaled. His capture of the depth of the immenseness of the sea and the horizon are incredibly done. Also, his use of reflection and natural hues create an image that is loud and large, which allows the attendant of the image to appreciate what the agent (Meyerowitz) was viewing as he took the picture.
Facing the deep bowl of space of sea and sky, one is struck by the absence of landmarks with which to measure distance. One can briefly feel what it was like to navigate the open sea with stars alone for reckoning. As I faced this space I recognized the irony of my question. Here with a camera that looks hard at everything I would try to photograph emptiness. 1988
These were moments of brief duration when the siren’s call drew me out of my reverie and showed me once again the mystery of reality 1984
Summertime, more than any other time of the year, brings me to a state of mind where this dual relationship is fluid, in harmony. In the summer, I go back for a while to that other time. I shed my clothes, walk to the water's edge, and step in. I feel nature all around me., I wear it aw a skin. I stare into space as long as I can. I look deeply into other faces. I lie in the sand and in the grass, feeling for what it felt like the first time. 1983
In 1977, he received a grant from the St. Louis Art Museum to “respond to what he found of visual interest in the city,” in the opinion of James N. wood, the former director of the St. Louis Art Museum, Meyerowitz “celebrates the quality of these photographs as art and the richness of the city as life. It reminds us that seeing is demanding, that unless we exercise our aesthetic curiosity we will remain blind to the beauty and meaning of our surroundings.” Nobel Prize winner Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn claims that “Meyerowitz’s photographs captures that constant collision between memory and aspiration, between past and present, that is contemporary St. Louis.”
I like cities: there is a wildness to them, a sense of the unknown, something like nature.
Apart from the city is the Arch. I found it deeply moving, profound. There were days when standing beneath it, I felt I knew the power of the pyramids. It was restorative, contemplative. It was more than a technicological marvel or symbol. It was pure form, the beauty of mathematical, a drawing on the heaves, perfect pitch.
Following the horror of September 11 th , 2001, Joel Meyerowitz was the only photographer allowed unrestricted access to document the tragedy that had befallen the great United States of America.
I am most pleased when a photograph allows one to enter in, in an evenhanded way, where time can be spent, just looking.
The intense camaraderie I experienced at Ground Zero inspired me, changing both my sense of myself and my sense of responsibility to the world around me. September 11th was a tragedy of almost unfathomable proportions. But living for nine months in the midst of those individuals who faced that tragedy head-on, day after day, and did what they could to set things right, was an immense privilege. I am deeply grateful to have worked alongside these men and women. I documented the aftermath for everyone who couldn’t be there. But this book is dedicated to those who were.
Bibliography Stepan, Peter. Icons of Photography: The 20 th Century. Prestel. Munich. London. New York. 1999 Meyerowitz, Joel. Bay/Sky. Bulfinch Press. Canada. 1993 Meyerowitz, Joel. A Summer’s Day. Yearout, Floyd. 1985 Meyeroitz, Joel. St. Louis & The Arch. 1980 http://h10088.www1.hp.com/cda/gap/display/main/gap_content.jsp?zn=gap&cp=1-315-374-408%5E26133_4000_100__ http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Joel_Meyerowitz http://www.masters-of-photography.com/M/meyerowitz/meyerowitz2.html www.joelmeyerowitz.com Exhibit 13 – Blue Man Group Top Gun Theme – Harold Faltermeyer Thank you to Ms. Williamson, Ms. Voss, Me. Elliott, and of course, Mr. Huber