Central Park, New York City, 1966
There are few if any photographers as versatile as Joel Meyerowitz, and none who make that versatility look so effortless. The 80-year-old artist has been a leading street photographer since his youth. He would also be at the top of any list of documentary photographers, if only for his indelible images of the aftermath at Ground Zero after the 9/11 attacks. Add in his facility with color or black and white, his talent for portraiture, landscape photography, and, late in life, formalist still lifes that beg comparison with paintings by Morandi or Cezanne and do not suffer from the comparison. Quite simply, he’s the whole package.
The comparisons with Morandi and Cezanne are Meyerowitz’s own, so presumably he knows his own worth. Viewers would have discerned that fact, however, merely by looking his images. If there is a common denominator to his many styles, it is the quiet confidence with which he works across a broad territory, whether shooting easily with a handheld 35mm or a large-format camera. And the shape-shifting throughout his career is definitely a choice, not an accident. As he writes in Where I Find Myself, the superb new retrospective book from which these images have been selected, “Anything you have done well is worth letting go of.”