ALONGSIDE FELLOW VISIONARIES WILLIAM EGGLESTON AND STEPHEN SHORE, MEYEROWITZ FOUGHT AND SUCCEEDED IN PROVING THE INTEGRITY AND ARTISTIC VALUE OF COLOUR PHOTOGRAPHY AT A TIME WHEN IT WAS WIDELY SHUNNED IN FAVOUR OF ITS REVERED MONOCHROME PREDECESSOR.
Born in New York City in 1938, he studied painting at Ohio State University before joining a New York advertising agency as an art director.
In 1962, he collaborated on a book project with the great Robert Frank, and was so moved by the photographer’s fluid approach – “it was all so physical, balletic and magical,” that he returned to the office after the shoot and announced he was quitting to pursue image-making.
Inspired by Frank and the work of Henri Cartier-Bresson, Meyerowitz purchased a 35mm camera and headed out to document life in and around New York City. His early works were carried out in black and white, but Meyerowitz always felt an irrepressible desire to shoot in colour: “I had this feeling that colour had more to say: if photography is about describing things, then colour describes more things, so I felt that was it.” Thereafter he purchased two Leicas, one colour, one black and white, and where possible took the same shot first with one camera and then the other so that he could compare and contrast the effects. “I wanted to be an intellectual advocate for colour,” he said.
Eventually, intuitions confirmed, Meyerowitz embraced colour as his primary medium, going on to capture some of the most striking, lyrical and sumptuously hued photographs of the past century.
During his 55-year career, Meyerowitz’s enduring curiosity and devotion to both colour and colour photography have seen him frequently push at the boundaries of his medium. He has experimented in portraiture, still life, landscape and beyond.
Meyerowitz views photography as a philosophy, a chance to preserve fleeting moments of beauty, and this is apparent from the very start.