Joel Meyerowitz Street Photography Program

There are so many great videos on Youtube! This morning I watched a movie, made in 1981 in which Joel Meyerowitz is interviewed about his work and followed while doing street photography (Joel Meyerowitz Photographer, 1982). Up till now I hadn't looked at much of Meyerowitz' work, but saw some photos in 'The Ongoing Moment' and 'The Photographer' that I really liked. 

There are a few things that I noticed while he was at work in the busy streets of New York. First of all, he's simply looking all the time. He is so focused on what he sees around him and it looks like he's almost in a kind of trance seeing things that only he sees and go unnoticed by others. Almost like a predator looking at his pray, although I don't think he experiences it like that. For him street photography is very much connected to an inner intuitive feeling: 'A practice of standing out there .... It took me years to discover that I had to stand still .... When it feels good you stay there, you're testing the elasticity of your feelings' .

He talked about how you find your subject and that you how you can be seducted by the most obvious, but that you have to look further than that: 'You might think, this is the subject, but somehow you have to push that aside, lit on the periphery instead on this subject'. 

He uses the term elasticity as well when he talks about why he switched from black and white to colour photography: 'I'm trying to not have hierarchy of value about these photographs. Very simply, I'm sensitive to coloured space and the envelop of white unfolding things. I go around, taking them in, passing them on ... Colour had another descriptive kind of quality, it told more, was more elastic.'

I learned from listening and looking at him that I need to be patient about myself. I really want to produce good work, work that wows, but I see that you just can't simply do that like that. It takes time to find your inner gut feeling about timing, technical skills, seeing and reproducing the way how you see.

There was a part in which Meyerowitz took photos with his 35 mm hand held camera and an other with his 8 by 10 full plate camera. When taking pictures with this, Meyerowitz took specific notes on how the light was and what the colours looked like. He called that '... the most important part, to get the colour right when developing the plates.' I think it's an approach to consider when post processing my images. I do change the white balance now and then to let the photo look the way I want it to, or to beautify an image later because I took it in the middle of the day when the colours were bleak. Looking at Meyerowitz I now see that with the approach of changing colours, or maybe post-production in general afterwards, you sort of denigrate the way things looked when you took the photo. I'm wondering if maybe also the magical experience of photography itself, the discovery of the 'elasticity of feelings' the happiness and fulfillment that you can find when you're there on the spot changes when you're thinking too much about the possibilities of changing it afterwards.

It is something that I want to consider and contemplate a bit more. I'm definitely still in search of my inner intuition and gut artistic feelings!

Joel Meyerowitz, Photographer. 1982, motion picture, Robert Gilbert, Nimble Thimble Inc. Productions. Available from: [Accessed 21 March 2013]