Joel Meyerowitz. Malaga, 1966


Joel Meyerowitz was born on March 6, 1938 in the Bronx, New York, as a member of a family of working-class Jewish immigrants from Hungary and Russia; Those origins and that neighborhood would have to do with his first cultural and moral sympathies, with a specific way of seeing the world that he would shape.

He has defined his childhood as chaotic but warm, a description that partly fits the personality he conveys. His father had a great talent for imitating Chaplin, the result of a capacity for observation that he shared: he used to notice street walkers, human behavior, the comedy and absurdity present in everyday life.

His first professional desire would be to be a painter. He moved to Ohio, where he studied Art, Art History and Medical Illustration, and then returned to New York; Here he would find employment as an art director in a small advertising agency. He was working on the design of a brochure that was to be illustrated with photographs created for that purpose by Robert Frank, when his ambitions changed: the author of The Americans He was seduced by his good eye for capturing life in moments and he decided that he should dedicate himself to photography and that this would be the medium that would allow him to read the street as he had never done before, describe the ephemeral and take the gaze of others towards the unnoticed. .

At first, he dedicated his free time to taking color photos with his 35mm accompanied by Tony Ray-Jones, at that time deputy creative director of the magazine. Sky and graphic designer. They stopped where there was a large crowd, not paying attention so much to the reason as to the people who came to the place, who in those circumstances did not notice the presence of a photographer. He was also a friend of Garry Winogrand, and when he was not photographing with them he did so alone, especially on Fifth Avenue, his boulevard: No street in the world has for me the kind of sexy, improvised collisions between elegance and simplicity. You can see bike messengers and models, billionaires and hustlers, and it’s all out there every day.

One of those days, in 1963, Meyerowitz was with Ray-Jones photographing the atmosphere around the St. Patrick’s parade when he informed him that he had just caught a glimpse of Henri Cartier-Bresson, who a decade earlier had published The decisive momentthe other major influential volume in Meyerowitz’s library along with The Americans. That book taught him to delve into matters of interest and not to be left behind, to get involved. The masses were his laboratory, and they evolved together from his self-taught impulse, projecting their images on slides and exercising mutual criticism.

Joel Meyerowitz.  London, 1966

That same year, 1963, the photographer married the painter Vivian Bower and both began to travel together in the following years through the United States – especially to Cape Cod and Florida – and through Europe, with the purpose of achieving a European version of The Americans. In Paris he would meet Cartier again (precisely in the office of Robert Delpire, editor of Frank’s work) and in November 1966 Joel would end up in Spain, without knowing much about life in our country, but he did know about Buñuel and Dalí. .

He spent half a year in Malaga living with gypsies and flamencos and, paying attention to their words, that stay transformed him: In Spain I somehow learned to be a man. There was something about masculinity (nothing to do with a macho attitude), about a way of being in life, that allowed me to become a photographer. I began to understand what it was like to be alone looking at the world. I was free for the first time in my life. Spain touched me deeply.

Joel Meyerowitz.  Malaga, 1966

During these years of the second half of the sixties, Meyerowitz moved away from his first aim of capturing the fleeting decisive moment, in which the action of the subject mattered more than the background, and became more introspective, increasing the depth of field, planning the shots, focusing more clearly, not shooting the subjects so closely… In his search for a more meticulously studied photographic frame, he switched from a 35mm camera to a large format Deardorff camera.

The Picasso Museum Málaga now exhibits two hundred images from this period, many of them unpublished, in the exhibition “Joel Meyerowitz. Europe 1966-1967”. They constitute a selection of the nearly 25,000 that he carried out in a dozen countries, sometimes from the window of his car, and many belong to that period in Malaga, which lasted six months, and are starring the Escalona, ​​the family who welcomed him, one of the flamenco strains with the greatest tradition in the city. They make up a very original record of life in this context, in the period of Franco’s developmentalism: we will see vintage copies and prints in color and black and white, in a tour curated by the new director of this center, Miguel López-Remiro.

Shortly after, in 1972, Meyerowitz would say goodbye definitively to black and white, committing himself to color images, still considered cheap, vulgar and not serious by many, in saturated street snapshots and luminous landscapes. Black and white began to seem like a thing of the past.

would arrive Cape Lighta conjunction of portraits, landscapes and photos of the sea of ​​Cape Cod, today a classic work of color: tiny figures on the beach, the railing of a porch in front of a sky darkened by the storm, a blue raft against a summer cabin… They are transformed by the luminosity of the place and Joel’s subtle vision.

In the nineties, already divorced from his first wife and married to the British novelist Maggie Barrett, Meyerowitz began to travel again through Europe, as he had done in the sixties and remembering old times, but now more frequently and especially through Italy, where he moved in 2014. He currently resides between New York and the Tuscan countryside, where he scours the markets in search of interesting objects and photographs them in still life style inspired by the European Impressionists.

View of the exhibition.  Photography: Jesús Domínguez © Museo Picasso Málaga

View of the exhibition.  Photography: Jesús Domínguez © Museo Picasso Málaga

“Joel Meyerowitz. Europe 1966-1967”


Calle San Agustín, 8


From June 15 to December 15, 2024

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