Here’s a collection of my favorite quotes by Joel Meyerowitz.
“We think of photography as pictures. And it is. But I think of photography as ideas. And do the pictures sustain your ideas or are they just good pictures? I want to have an experience in the world that is a deepening experience, that makes me feel alive and awake and conscious.” – Joel Meyerowitz
“I think about photographs as being full, or empty. You picture something in a frame and it’s got lots of accounting going on in it–stones and buildings and trees and air – but that’s not what fills up a frame. You fill up the frame with feelings, energy, discovery, and risk, and leave room enough for someone else to get in there.” – Joel Meyerowitz
“What I think is so extraordinary about the photograph is that we have a piece of paper with this image adhered to it, etched on it, which interposes itself into the plane of time that we are actually in at that moment. Even if it comes from as far back as 150 years ago, or as recently as yesterday, or a minute before as a Polaroid color photograph, suddenly you bring it into your experience. You look at it, and all around the real world is humming, buzzing and moving, and yet in this little frame there is stillness that looks like the world. That connection, that collision, that interfacing, is one of the most astonishing things we can experience.” – Joel Meyerowitz
“[The small camera] taught me energy and decisiveness and immediacy … The large camera taught me reverence, patience, and meditation.” – Joel Meyerowitz
“I find it strangely beautiful that the camera with its inherent clarity of object and detail can produce images that in spite of themselves offer possibilities to be more than they are … a photograph of nothing very important at all, nothing but an intuition, a response, a twitch from the photographer’s experience.” – Joel Meyerowitz
“Making any statement of your feelings is risky. It’s just like making pictures.” – Joel Meyerowitz
“A lot of what I am looking for is a moment of astonishment,” he says. “Those moments of pure consciousness when you involuntarily inhale and say ‘Wow!’ – Joel Meyerowitz
“We all experience it. Those moments when we gasp and say, “Oh, look at that.” Maybe it’s nothing more than the way a shadow glides across a face, but in that split second, when you realize something truly remarkable is happening and disappearing right in front of you, if you can pass a camera before your eye, you’ll tear a piece of time out of the whole, and in a breath, rescue it and give it new meaning.” – Joel Meyerowitz
“I have to say, taking photographs is such an instantaneous act. The recognition and the acting on the recognition, depending on your equipment, is close to instantaneous.” – Joel Meyerowitz
“Photography is a response that has to do with the momentary recognition of things. Suddenly you’re alive. A minute later there was nothing there. I just watched it evaporate. You look one moment and there’s everything, next moment it’s gone. Photography is very philosophical.” – Joel Meyerowitz
“They [photographs] teach you about your own unraveling past, or about the immediacy of yesterday. They show you what you look at. If you take a photograph, you’ve been responsive to something, and you looked hard at it. Hard for a thousandth of a second, hard for ten minutes. But hard, nonetheless. And it’s the quality of that bite that teaches you how connected you were to that thing, and where you stood in relation to it, then and now.” – Joel Meyerowitz
“You know, he (Winogrand) set a tempo on the street so strong that it was impossible not to follow it. It was like jazz. You just had to get in the same groove… You know, if you hesitate, forget it. You don’t have to learn to unleash that. It was like having a hair trigger. Sometimes walking down the street, wanting to make a picture, I would be so anticipatory, so anxious, that I would just have to fire the camera, to let fly a picture, in order to release the energy, so that I could recock it. That’s what you got from Garry. It came off him in waves – to be keyed up, eager, excited for pictures in that way.” – Joel Meyerowitz
“It comes down to risk, again and again. If you risk coming out, if you risk making pictures that aren’t good, you might discover something in a photograph that is the key. The very doorway to your own interest.” – Joel Meyerowitz
“’Tough’ meant it was an uncompromising image, something that came from your gut, out of instinct, raw, of the moment, something that couldn’t be described in any other way. So it was tough. Tough to like, tough to see, tough to make, tough to understand. The tougher they were the more beautiful they became.” – Joel Meyerowitz
“I had to learn to identify what it was exactly I was responding to, and if my response was any good. The only way to do that is to take pictures, print them, look hard at them and discuss them with other people.” – Joel Meyerowitz
”It’s appetite. You have to be hungry for these things to see it.” – Joel Meyerowitz
“I believe that street photography is central to the issue of photography—that it is purely photographic, whereas the other genres, such as landscape and portrait photography, are a little more applied, more mixed in the with the history of painting and other art forms.” – Joel Meyerowitz
“What is the art experience about? Really, I’m not interested in making “Art” at all. I never, ever, think about it. To say the word “Art”, it’s almost like a curse on art. I do know that I want to try to get closer to myself. The older I get, the more indications I have about what it is to get closer to yourself. You try less hard. I just want to be.” – Joel Meyerowitz
“It’s (photography) me asking myself: ‘How interesting is this medium? And how interesting can I make it for me? And, by the way, who the fuck am I?'”
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Cheryl Dunn has completed a powerful documentary on the elusive spirit of New York photography. Cheryl was commissioned by The Seaport Museum, New York, to make a documentary about photographers who have used New York City street life as a common thread in their work. Produced by ALLDAYEVERYDAY, Everybody Street premiered at the museum in part with the exhibit Alfred Stieglitz New York, and was released in segments by The New Yorker magazine.
In order of appearance, photographer vignettes were Clayton Patterson, Joel Meyerowitz, Martha Cooper, Mary Ellen Mark, Bruce Gilden, Luc Sante, Bruce Davidson, and Rebecca Lepkoff. The film also features Tim Barber, Jeff Mermelstein, Ricky Powell, Jamel Shabazz, and Bonnie Yochelson. Dunn shot the street footage in New York City on a 16-mm. Beaulieu.
Find out more about the project here.
Find out more about Mary Ellen Mark here.
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Vivian Maier was recently discovered posthumously. The Chicago nanny took over 100,000 photographs and some say she may rank among the top street photographers of the 20th century.
Find more videos on photographers here.