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Joel Meyerowitz . Why Color?


The exhibtion
Fifth Avenue, skyscrapers, beauty salons, billboards and diners. A group of four young women stand outside a store. Their clothes are brilliantly colored, their pumps white, their backcombed hair immaculate. What would this charming picture, so rich in nuances, be without color? The New York photographer manages to fish surprising and sometimes peculiar fleeting moments from the stream of everyday happenings. His precise use of color enables him to bring their very individual vividness and pictorial intensity to the fore. Starting in 1962, Joel Meyerowitz began experimenting with using color photography first and added black-and-white photography to his work just shortly afterwards. In 1966 he drove across the whole of Europe, and he used color photography’s special qualities when the subject required color shades and luminosity for being connected. He nevertheless made deliberate use of black and white in order to highlight contrasts between elements of the image, be they artistic or graphic. Within a few years after his return, he began working exclusively in color, which was a break with the staunchly remaining black-and-white dictum of artistic photography and photojournalism. From the mid-1970s onward, he created precisely composed studies in light on Cape Cod on the East Coast, which are today regarded as icons of contemporary photography. As one of the most influential pioneers of New Color Photography, Joel Meyerowitz (*1938) has also left a visible impact on many younger generations. Curated by Felix Hoffmann, C/O Berlin presents the first and only German exhibition of Meyerowitz’s work, which is focused on the vintage color and black-and white prints from the 1960s to the present day, placing them in relation to each other.

The artist
Joel Meyerowitz was born in New York in 1938 and grew up in the Bronx. He graduated with a degree in painting from Ohio State University in 1959 before working as a commercial graphic designer in New York, where Robert Frank photographed a project of Meyerowitz’s design. In 1962, when he began, his first rolls of film were Kodachrome, and only after the first year of working in color did he realize that black and white prints enabled him to hold images in his hands rather seeing them on a screen. He is now considered one of the most influential founders of Street and New Color Photography. Meyerowitz has received numerous prizes for his work, including the 2017 Leica Hall of Fame Award in recognition of his life’s work. Countless museums and institutions around the globe have shown his photographs in solo and group exhibitions, including the NRW-Forum in Düsseldorf (2014), the Miami Art Museum (2011), the Whitney Museum of American Art in New York (2004), the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art (1981), the Stedelijk Museum in Amsterdam (1980), and the Museum of Modern Art in New York (1968). His Aftermath series (2001) documented the devastation and reconstruction of the World Trade Center at Ground Zero in New York in the wake of 9/11. Joel Meyerowitz lives and works in New York and in Buonconvento, Italy.

Photo: Sarah, Provincetown, Massachusetts, a.d.S. A Summer's Day / Readheads (Detail), 1980 © Joel Meyerowitz/Courtesy Howard Greenberg