Earlier this year Ralph Goertz of the Institut für Kunstdokumentation und Szenografie (IKS) released what may be the best documentary movie so far about the great urban documentary aka street photographer Joel Meyerowitz and it is available for short-term rental or purchase at Vimeo.
I highly recommend ‘Sense of Time’ to those interested in the genres of which Mr Meyerowitz has long been a master, urban documentary with small cameras and streetscapes, landscape and portraits with large format cameras.
“The American photographer Joel Meyerowitz counts as one of the pioneers of street photography and – next to Stephen Shore and William Eggleston – as one of the most significant representatives of the American ‘New Color Photography’ movement since the 1960s.
Next to his early street photographs which he shot both in color and black & white in the early 1960s, he got international attention through his ground breaking series of “Cape Light”, in which he presented his achromatic observations of the light with his 8×10 camera. The book is still an icon for following generations of photographers….”
I came across the documentary when researching for articles on the recently announced Fujifilm Fujinon XF 18mm f/1.4 R WR fast prime lens and it reminded me of just how much I learned from and have been inspired by Joel Meyerowitz’ work over the decades since I discovered it while at art school.
His work pointed the way toward achieving the look and feel I had been after when I was becoming increasingly frustrated by the limitations of 35mm SLR cameras and I soon adopted Leica M-Series rangefinder cameras and then a wooden 4″x5″ sheet film.
My vision was immediately liberated from the constraints of the SLR look, and I began creating images much closer to the detail and emotive colour that is now taken for granted in the digital age.
As demonstrated in ‘Sense of Time’ as well as his many books and the Joel Meyerowitz Masterclass training, Mr Meyerowitz relies on Leica analog and digital cameras equipped with 28mm and 35mm prime lenses for his street photography, and Fujifilm’s release next year of the XF 18mm f/1.4 R WR will bring a professional-quality 28mm equivalent prime lens to the system at long last and after years of requests from users.
I hope to add one to my kit and believe it will stand up well against Fujifilm’s current 35mm equivalent lenses, the Fujinon XF 23mm f/1.4 R and the smaller, “Fujicron”-style, XF 23mm f/2.0 R WR.
Note how Mr Meyerowitz chooses between the two focal lengths depending on how he wishes to relate foreground action to background setting, whether he wants to create a feeling of being deep in the action or slightly removed and more conscious of what surrounds it.
Note also how optical viewfinder cameras affect his vision and the way he uses his camera so rapidly while achieving accuracy in timing and framing sometimes and a looseness of style and framing at others.
Joel Meyerowitz’ small camera work shows that the street can be a rich realm of exploration and image creation provided one eschews cliché and all-too-common street photography tropes for complete openness to the excitement of the unexpected.
- Alldayeveryday Productions LLC – Everybody Street – video – includes Joel Meyerowitz along with a panoply of iconic urban documentary photographers in New York City. Bonus short interviews available.
- B&H – 28mm Leica M-mount lenses
- B&H – 35mm Leica M-mount lenses
- B&H – Fujifilm cameras and lenses
- B&H – Leica M-Series and other cameras and lenses, analog and digital
- FilmRise Cinematheque – Everybody Street – video
- Institut für Kunstdokumentation – Joel Meyerowitz – Sense of Time – VOD for rent or purchase.
- Joel Meyerowitz – Instagram account
- Joel Meyerowitz – website
- Laurence King – How I Make Photographs, by Joe Meyerowitz
- Laurence King – Joel Meyerowitz: Where I Find Myself, A Lifetime Retrospective
- Masters of Photography – Joel Meyerowitz Masterclass
- Wikipedia – Joel Meyerowitz