‘I learned, I think everything I know about being an artist, using a Leica on the streets. It taught me to understand human nature and to predict even the kinds of little things that might be happening. It has engaged my curiosity with the world and the meaning that comes out of the world. It’s really been an instrument of my education and development as an artist. That’s a mighty tool.’ Joel Meyerowitz
Joel Meyerowitz was born in New York in 1938 and grew up in the Bronx. He studied painting and initially worked as an advertising art director. Meyerowitz began shooting on 35 mm colour film in 1962. In the following year, he combined this with black-and-white before returning to the richness of storytelling in colour. New York always remained the dominant focus of his life as a photographer – from his early works from the 1960s to his evocative images taken at Ground Zero in the aftermath of 9/11.
The turning point that led to Meyerowitz’s decision to become a photographer was an encounter with Robert Frank in the early 1960s. Fascinated by the work of his great role model, he decided to dedicate his life to street photography. He sights Frank as a great inspiration and mentor stating that his seminal book The Americans changed his life, making him realise that photography could produce a form of poetry - albeit a dark one.
In the following years, he captured visual epiphanies on the streets of New York. Here, he found a living stage for his curious observation of people and the chance scenarios of a big city. He refined the methods he learned on the streets of New York on an extended trip through Europe in 1966/67. The images in the Leica Gallery London exhibition focus on these first decades of Meyerowitz’s career showing how he effortlessly moves between colour and black and white film – championing both equally.