A retrospective featuring the immense oeuvre of Joel Meyerowitz, which has recently opened at at Paris’s Maison Européenne de la Photographie, plays a testament to the level of ground the Bronx-born photographer has broken throughout his 50-year career. The images, which have also been published as a two-volume monograph by Phaidon titled “Taking My Time,” follow his work beginning from the early 1960s to the present day, from the streets of Manhattan to Mexico, to Cape Cod, to Paris.
It’s a career that started as an inspired moment — in 1962, Meyerowitz was working as the art director at an ad agency when he met the photographer Robert Frank. After watching Frank at work, he decided to quit his job and began the itinerant life of a street photographer. Starting in the 1970s, he became one of the major pioneers of color photography, taking identical shots in color and black-and-white in order to show the difference. “There were more elements at play” in color photography, he told the New York Times last fall. “The simple fact of the matter was that it just provided more information, and I wanted more information.”
Among the photos on view in the show are Meyerowitz’s iconic images of the World Trade Center site, photographed over the nine months following the attack. Wide-angle capture that documents the colossal wreckage and the stunned reactions of firefighters and EMS technicians on the scene, the works blur the lines between photojournalism and aesthetic tableaux, their dry and informative titles conveying the sense of being on the scene at Ground Zero. “If I took the pictures in black-and-white, it would stay as a tragedy,” he told iTélé. “But the reality was, it was beautiful, unexpectedly beautiful, in color.”