ORGANIZATION: Bombas Gens Centre d’Art
ARTISTS: Joel Meyerowitz
CURATOR: Nuria Enguita, Miguel López-Remiro and Vicente Todolí
PUBLICATION: Francesco Zanot, Miguel López-Remiro and Nuria Enguita. Edited by La Fábrica and Bombas Gens Centre d’Art
The exhibition Out of the Darkness by Joel Meyerowitz, includes 98 photographs from the Per Amor a l‘Art Collection, most of which were taken in Malaga between 1966 and 1967. The artist lived in this city with the Escalonas, one of the most renowned local Flamenco families. The exhibition includes images in black and white and in colour, as well as a small selection of the photographs taken at the Escalona family home.
In 1962 Meyerowitz quit his job as an editor to become a photographer, a decision he made after a photo session with Robert Frank in a Manhattan apartment. Aided by his former boss, Harry Gordon, who gave him a small colour camera and a copy of Frank’s book The Americans, Meyerowitz started taking photographs in the streets of New York City with Tony-Ray Jones and, later on, with Garry Winogrand and Tod Papageorge.
Meyerowitz is now held as one of the greatest practitioners of street photography, and is credited with having furthered and renewed the legacy of artists such as Henri Cartier-Bresson and Robert Frank, while creating his own idiom. He used colour from the start, in contrast with the dominant trend of black and white photography, even if he used both. He was interested in colour because of its ability to describe a specific era and point in time, and because of its closeness to painting. He started with a small 35mm camera which allowed him to capture the immediacy and chaos of street life. Soon, however, he also began to use a large format camera, which defined a new way of looking, slower and more focused on the space. This allowed him to transition from action to context while maintaining, to some extent, the immediacy of the relationships which take place on the street.
His trip to Europe and the time he spent in Spain in 1966, only four years after his start as a photographer, were important for defining an approach which strayed, very early on, both from Cartier-Bresson’s “decisive moment” and from Frank’s narrativity, in order to focus on the expressive possibilities of photography as a context, and on its ability to show the fragmentation, simultaneity and contrast of street life. He approaches his work as a dialogue with reality, as a response made of energy and meditation. His approach is not that of a hunter in search of prey, but rather that of a stroller/observer who allows himself to be affected not only by what he sees, but by what he feels at every moment, thus responding to a sensory drive that goes beyond seeing.
The work he did in Spain, as well as the trip in itself, is of great value for it implies a continued dialogue with a country in transformation, under difficult social, cultural and political circumstances marked by a dictatorship. Nevertheless, his photographs of Malaga show, sometimes with veiled humour, how life finds its way under any circumstances.