New York Photo Review
Volume 4 Issue 4 January 23 to 29, 2013

The Genetic Wars by Barbara Confino
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The Color Work
Joel Meyerowitz
Joel Meyerowitz Part II
Longnook Beach by Joel Meyerowitz. Source: howardgreenberg.com
Joel Meyerowitz, "Longnook Beach" 1983

When Joel Meyerowitz gave a talk at the Greenberg gallery on December 15 in front of an SRO audience of some 75 to 100 people, he added some revealing insights to his work on the walls around him and in his massive new two-volume book, “Taking My Time.” He also related how he became involved with photographing the aftermath of 9/11 at ground zero and how he was eventually able to walk through police lines day after day. His candid, expansive talk was an educational and memorable introduction to viewing Part II of the exhibition.

The gallerist Howard Greenberg began the afternoon’s program by asking Meyerowitz about his childhood and early influences. He explained how his father had helped him develop his “eye” at an early age by telling him to “watch this, look at that” while they walked near their Bronx home. Later, as an art director for a Manhattan ad agency, he met Robert Frank who he had hired to shoot a job. Seeing Frank at work was a life-changing experience because Meyerowitz quit his job that day to become a photographer.

During the 1960s, the artist met Tony Ray-Jones, another emerging artist, and they photographed New York City parades together. “We used the parades as camouflage and learned about timing and getting really close to people to photograph them.” He explained how life as a photographer in the 1960s was different than today. “Shooting on the street was easier then because people weren’t as nervous.” He shot color because real life was in color and color offers more description, but “shooting Kodachrome left no room for error. You had to be precise.” At the time, he wasn’t aware that color got no respect in the art world; it was perceived as commercial and best used for amateur photos and weddings.

Joel Meyerowitz by Norman Borden. Source: nyphotoreview.com
Norman Borden, "Joel Meyerowitz" 2012

With the publication of his book Cape Light in 1979, color photography gained more acceptance in the art world. “I discovered my meditative side while on Cape Cod, “ Meyerowitz said. “On the street, you’re spontaneous and you act on your perceptions.” The 8 x10 view camera he used didn’t permit much spontaneity, but it did allow the photographer to assert more control over his final image. “I had to make a lot of bad pictures before I was satisfied...it’s the responsibility of the photographer to make something that lasts.”

Mostly landscapes, the work ranges from Cape Cod to Tuscany and Provence. Many of the Cape Light images here project an eerie, yet powerful stillness, but, of course, it’s all about the light. In an adjacent gallery bay, a series of vintage 8 x10 contact prints from the Cape Light series look a little faded, but they’re still selling for $15,000 each.

Also on display is “Young Dancer, 34th Street and 9th Avenue.” It’s an engaging New York street scene shot with the 8x10 view camera. I also liked an unusual image called Bay/Sky, 1984. It’s a vertical image of a fog bank; the sun is trying to poke through, you can see a glimmer of the beach at the bottom but it’s mostly fog. It grows on you. it’s also 50 x 40 inches so it’s hard to ignore. Price: $26,000.

Much of the work here is not new, of course, but seeing the various highlights of this iconic artist’s career and hearing him talk about a few made this a particularly memorable afternoon and let me see Joel Meyerowitz in a new light. “Take a leap of your own,” he advised.

Joel Meyerowitz
Joel Meyerowitz Part II


Howard Greenberg
41 E 57th St. 14th Fl
Midtown         Map

212 334 0010
howardgreenberg.com

Friday, December 7 to
Saturday, January 5, 2013
Hours: Tues - Sat, 10 to 6
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Making Caribbean Dance by Susanna Sloat
Photographs by Norman Borden
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