The Fears
of the World
Deserve Witnesses

Joel Meyerowitz

Unexpected moments

This work comes from my earliest years of working where I was learning how to recognize something meaningful in a fraction of a second. The photograph was shot in 1963, in New York City. I love this photograph because it taught me that unexpected ‘relationships’ create a new meaning, and often that meaning has nothing to do with the reality in front of me – but it brings me and my understanding to a fresh, new idea of meaning or possibility.

And so, this group of 3, the 2 men and a dog, create a sense of the tensions underlying American life back then, and continue even now, more than 50 years later. I recognized in a flash of a second that the Black man, with that smile on his face, and his big dog, played well against the tension and seriousness of the man standing near him, and that it was possible to ‘read’ this as a reversal of all the pictures we had seen over the years of men and dogs chasing men of color. It was a flash of insight, and what I call the game of seeing.

I have felt for most of my working life that photography has given me my understanding of the world, my place in it, my philosophy of both Art and Life.

I prefer to say MAKE photographs, not take.
Joel Meyerowitz

I grew up as a ‘street kid’ playing all the street games of the post-war era in the Bronx in the 40’s. After college I wanted to be an abstract painter, but I got my first job as an Art Director.

Joel Meyerowitz Key Visual 1512x1008

There I watched as Robert Frank photographed a booklet layout of my design and I fell in love with the ‘idea’ of photography and how it could stop a moment in time and hold the fragile instinct that awakened me to a photographic moment.My first show at MoMA was of photographs made ‘From a Moving Car’ during a year-long trip to Europe in 1966-67. I come alive on the street! Life there is rich with chance encounters, and characters, movement and gesture, poetry and meaning; and chance brings me the thrill of photographic possibilities.

The perfect photographic instrument

I bought my first Leica after seeing Garry Winogrand and Robert Frank using Leicas. With the M2 in the 1960’s I could keep one eye in the rangefinder while my other eye was open and still watching the world. At the same time the Leica did not ‘blink’ like a single lens reflex does, leaving you with a moment of blindness as the mirror goes up.

With a Leica you are always in touch with everything that continues to happen in the field in front of you. The Leica is the perfect photographic instrument. The precision of the lenses, there are no other lenses crafted the way a Leica lens is. The look Leica lenses produce are absolutely a signature of my work and my idea of what a photograph should look like.

Leica is my preferred camera. I now use 3 Leica’s on a regular, daily, but interchangeable basis, depending on my subject matter: The M10 (with my name engraved on it by Leica). The S3 for still life, portraits, commercial work and the SL for videos and some landscape work.