Cities and destiny. New York, Saint Louis, Atlanta. 80 photographs by Joel Meyerowitz, amongst which 10 shots to the Twin Towers and Ground Zero
With his potographs, Joel Meyerowitz, is the exceptional witness of the event that has drammactically signed the beginning of the third millenium. From the height of his studio, for years, the stear of Meyerowitz has made visible the greatness of the sky that mirrowed onto Manhattan in the height of the Twin Towers. Thus, after the 11th of September, Meyerowitz has been called to bring to light, in the desolation of Ground Zero, the power of life that animated New York and its inhabitants.
Born in New York in 1938, then arrived at the peak of its rising at emlem city of the XX century; Joel Meyerowitz meets the photography in the images of Robert Frank and Diane Arbus, of whom he has been assistant, and in the echo of the writers of the Bea Generation at the end of the fifties; and the metropolis become fulcrum of his artistic work.
For Meyerowitz, photography becomes the possibility of a conscious and critical vision of human condition and poses the necessity to operat on the road to describe the unforeviewed events and unforeviewable gestures of the still unknown contemporary view on the metropolis.
“One can never have enough of the human comedy” decalirs Meyerowitz, protagonist of the Street Photography of those years with Lee Fiedlander and Garry Winogrand, “because each day it faces you with a different aspect: its tragedies, its hironies, its spontaneous explanations and its wakenings. All of this happens in way similar to jazz, when one works with a small camera one is immediately concious of what is going on in the street”.
Just as Paul Strand, Meyerowitz becomes rapidly aware that the truth of man can be experimented in its infinite living complexity only in the opening to contemplative life: and thus he decides to switch to the greater format 20×25. Fundamental, in this process of maturation, is the use of color. “I had seen in the colour of the 35mm a certain type of descriptive quality that the black/white did not have… and my arguments since the first years of the seventies has been that the colour is meaningfull”.
As human figures walking across the streets searching for their own destiny, in the large format colour images even buildings become protagonists in the representations of Meyerowitz: the Emire State in New York, the Eliel Saarinen Arch in Saint-Lous, the A.T.T of Phil Johnson in Atlanta, the palaces in Saint Petersbourg, built in the sevenhundreds by Italian architects. The bringing of the character of the city from scene to protagonist of the representation in Meyerowitz does not mean the exclusion of man – or his diminishing – from the dynamism of the image, but it becomes instead for him the only way to make him come back at the centre as true subject of the story that widens across the world.
“Description is a key word for me… yes. Photographies describe that which consciousness perceives: they are the photography of the awareness of whom is taking a picture. The objects seem the subjects of the picture, all concentrates when I press the bolt. If you think to be able to photograph without them, you obtain an empty picture… meaningless. No meaning. Those images are signs of the fact that for a short period in your life you have had full conciousness… And if you can put yourself to phocus… you will see your particular phocus, your signature and you will know you are the meaning”.
If the result of a certain path of the West is man reduced to a single dimension, the homologant and superficial dimension of mass civilisation, for Mayerowitz, only man is capable of giving meaning to the world, a meaning that illuminates in the putting to phocus of the unreducable identities and differences of the cultures of inhabiting. For Meyerowitz the story of the Genesis has never interrupted and can never interrupt: in his images, the world appear simply in the splendour of its beginning.