Portrait of an Artist: JOEL MEYEROWITZ
BRINGING COLOUR TO THE STREETS
Can you imagine the media without colour? Nowadays, black and white movies make us nostalgic and take us back to a world long gone, and b/w has become a popular filter on digital cameras and smart phones. So there’s a tendency to forget that colour on film hasn’t been around for that long - at least not as an affordable option for both commercial and personal use.
First experiments with colour photography were undertaken in the late 19th century, but it took a few more centuries until Kodak introduced its first "tripack" film in 1935. Before, three different cameras with three different filters had to take the same still image to produce a picture with colours. Kodak put three different colour recording emulsions on top of each other and made colour photography accessible for the public - although up until the 1960’s there was still a significant resistance to the idea of it and despite becoming more and more popular, colour photography was still much more expensive than black and white and therefore not necessarily attractive for anything other than the advertising industry - colour photography was seen as rather tacky and vulgar.
Photographer JOEL MEYEROWITZ is one of the early advocates of colour photography and has shaped street photography like nobody else. He was born in 1938 in New York, grew up in the Bronx and later studied Fine Arts at Ohio State University. In 1962 JOEL began photographing, mainly in colour. His shots show beauty in everyday - almost average - situations, snaps taken on the streets with his Kodachrome, Kodak’s first colour film. He uses the colour where the shot needs it most - we notice little details, are drawn into the scene and feel the life in each picture mostly because of the colour. The same picture in black and white would be trivial, even.
CREDITS: (1st picture) Laundry, Provincetown, Massachusetts, 1982. © Joel Meyerowitz/Courtesy Howard Greenberg | (2nd picture) Chuckie, Provincetown, Massachusetts, 1981.
© Joel Meyerowitz/Courtesy Howard Greenberg
JOEL takes us through the streets of New York as well as to nondescript places outside the city. Some of the moments that he captures in colour remind us of paintings, others look like the opening scene of a film: He uses colour to comprehend, understand and feel the world around him.
He also starts shooting in black and white, mainly to show the contrast between certain elements in the picture. Joel uses b/w and colour just like he uses light or focus: as an instrument to tell stories, stories about the beauty of everyday moments.