New Aesthetics

Whilst the first part of Polka Galerie’s retrospective series on Joel Meyerowitz (b. 1938) concentrates on street photography in New York City, the second section, Taking My Time, charts an embrace of landscape and light.

Having abandoned black and white, a move which helped overcome resistance to the idea of colour images as an artform, Meyerowitz’s work continued to shift and develop, and in 1976, he moved away from 35mm film to the use of an 8×10 Deardorff large-format view camera, and from the metropolitan streets to the seaside peninsula of Cape Cod.

With its light, its empty, silent, landscapes, the images from Massachusetts are the exact opposite of the images of New York. On a technical and symbolic level, the photographer’s vision changed, as did the consequent process and method. As he notes: “Action is no longer the focus and becomes almost incidental. My images have other ambitions.”

Whilst Fred Herzog or Stephen Shore freed themselves from colour by neutralising shades, Meyerowitz did the contrary and emphasised the power and wealth of pigments. In these works, colour becomes a language, and photography in general a contemplative space. The 1979 book Cape Light, which went on to sell 150,000 copies, demonstrated this new aesthetic and led to further explorations of landscapes, other forms and other architectures, seen for example in the later publication Tuscany: Inside the Light, (2003). More recently, the practitioner has spent three years capturing wild areas in New York City’s parks.

In 2001, he was given unimpeded access to Ground Zero in the wake of 9/11. The consequent images have formed the foundation of a major national archive, and an exhibition of selected pieces have travelled to more than 200 cities in 60 countries.

Joel Meyerowitz: Taking My Time Part II, Polka Galerie, Paris, until 14 March

1. Joel Meyerowitz, Florida (1967). Courtesy of Polka Galerie.