Joel Meyerowitz

Joel Meyerowitz

Joel Meyerowitz was a philosophical photographer that headed out into New York in the early 1980’s to capture life as he saw it.

Joel Meyerowitz - New York street scene

Meyerowitz style was all about capturing the moment, the people and environment, taking that 1000th of a second from the peoples lives and allowing us to examine all the aspects of that scene. I found his style works well in crowded streets where groups of people who do not know each other are pictured together, with each person telling their own story through their Body language, clothing and facial expressions.

Meyerowitz - Train Station

I chose this image because I thought it encapsulated Meyerowitz’s philosophy. There is a real contrast between the characters, the couple at the back are well dressed, they are laughing, happy and confident, for them the camera has caught a joyful moment, conversely the other person is scruffy, he looks awkward and lonely. Here they are together, and just for a moment their lives cross and is caught. If you were watching this happen you would probably never have really noticed the people, a split second later and they will have moved on.

New York 1963

New York 1963

Meyerowitz was a marketing director when he got the chance to spend some time with another photographer who rose to fame with his portrayal of American life, Robert Frank. Meyerowitz was fascinated with how Frank moved and stalked the streets which led him to quitting his job and heading out with his camera. Meyerowitz learned to read the language of the street but even he admitted that sometimes the images he got were just fortunate.

The above image is one of those brilliant accidents, the two people are stood together on the street but they are in such contrast with each other.  I feel it represents the changing social landscape and the common attitudes of people in early 1960’s America. The older white man is dressed smartly in a suit and the younger black man is casual. The body language of the older man tells us a lot about the image,  Many white Americans were still inherently racist and although things were changing this old man would have lived and grown up knowing only racial segregation. The expression on his face is one of abhorrence and revulsion, the way he is leaning away and holding his hat emphasises his obvious loathing. It is also notable that the posture adopted by the older man is consistent with the stance taken by many Americans during shows of national pride, loyalty or allegiance. In contrast the younger man is relaxed, casual and happy. His expression and body language are saying to me that he is used to this type of reaction and that he rises above the hatred aimed at him.

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