“I think all the stuff on the street is a gift. But you only get it if you go out there every day.”
Without a doubt, Joel Meyerowitz belongs to the most renowned representatives of US street and colour photography. Like few others, he manages time and again to draw out surprising and often very curious moments from the tangled confusion of everyday life. Recognised in a fraction of a second, the motifs always appear as perfectly composed images, regardless of whether they were taken in black and white or colour. It was an encounter with Robert Frank in the early sixties – when Meyerowitz was working as an Art Director – that triggered his decision to become a photographer. Frank, who was already a famous photographer at the time, had been hired by Meyerowitz’s boss at the advertising agency to shoot photos for a booklet Meyerowitz had designed. After observing the great artist at work, Meyerowitz came to the decision to dedicate himself to street photography as well. Over the following years he took pictures on the streets of New York; this was where he found the perfect setting for observing life and people in the big city. After beginning in colour in 1962, Meyerowitz started to use black and white film a year later. The training he received in New York was further refined during a year-long journey throughout Europe in 1966/67. Many well-known pictures that belong to Meyerowitz’s unmistakable body of work were taken at that time in different countries and in many cities. In the years following his return to the US, colour became even more important for the photographer, and many of his legendary motifs are from that era. “I often think that the camera is a divining rod. It guides me! Because having it with me, in my hands, or on my shoulder, it is my license to see.”
Born in New York City in 1938, Meyerowitz grew up in the Bronx, studied painting and afterwards worked as an Art Director. He turned to 35mm colour photography in 1962, then discovered black and white, and finally came back with renewed commitment to the narrative richness of colour in 1972. New York City remained his favourite subject – from his early works in the sixties to the moving 9/11 motifs that were taken during the clean-up operations at Ground Zero. Meyerowitz lives and works in New York and in Tuscany, Italy.