First published by T Magazine, with photography, on 22 May 2017
In 1962, Joel Meyerowitz left his job in advertising and set out to be a photographer. He started by venturing outside with two Leica cameras (one loaded with color film and the other with black and white) to snap the world in motion: In one image, a man strides through the streets of New York cradling an enormous dog in his arms; in another, a couple zooms through Greece on a scooter, the woman’s scarf blurred by the wind.
“Along with half a dozen other photographers of his generation, Joel Meyerowitz is responsible for the re-evaluation of color photography as a significant form of art,” says Giles Huxley-Parlour, the director of London’s Beetles+Huxley Gallery, which opens a show focused on the photographer’s influential street photography this week.
When Meyerowitz started out, color film was still dismissed by many as creatively inferior to black and white; as a self-taught photographer, he knew nothing of this prejudice, and simply followed his instincts. “Joel — along with Joel Sternfeld, William Eggleston, Stephen Shore and a few others — recalibrated photography in the public’s eyes, but also in the critics’ eyes,” Huxley-Parlour says. “They made artistic sense of it.” (Meyerowitz now lives in Tuscany, and is still regularly publishing photo books.)
By the early 1970s, when he was working exclusively in color, Meyerowitz was beginning to concentrate on what he called “field photographs,” in which there was no central focus. A vivid image from this time shows a diving board arching over one side of a Florida pool, with a palm tree leaning over the other — a picture in which every part of the composition holds equal weight. “He is a man who is very graphically and aesthetically aware,” Huxley-Parlour says. “He didn’t come with any preconceived ideas of what a photograph should be.”
“Joel Meyerowitz: Towards Colour 1962-1978” is on view May 23-June 24 at Beetles+Huxley Gallery, 3-5 Swallow Street, London W1B 4DE, beetlesandhuxley.com.