An American perspective of a simpler time abroad

"New York City, 1963," by Joel Meyerowitz
“New York City, 1963,” by Joel Meyerowitz

Exhibit: ‘Work from the Sixties’ by Joel Meyerowitz at Ariel Meyerowitz Gallery, 120 Eleventh Ave., Second Floor, New York — through 22 Jan. 2005

By BRUNO J. NAVARRO | Editor

NEW YORK (Fotophile.com) — Youthful exuberance and a healthy degree of innocence infuse much ofJoel Meyerowitz‘s “Work from the Sixties,” an exhibit highlighting the B&W and color photography from the perspective of an American in his 20s traveling through Europe.

Armed with two Leica bodies and 700 rolls of film, Meyerowitz in 1966 embarked on the romantic journey of a lifetime that would take him to the British Isles and across the continent, followed by Morocco and Turkey.

In the process, Meyerowitz documented the gradual awakening of a world view. His sense of wonder becomes ours, as he captures the hectic pace of Parisian streets full of fire-breathers and pedestrian mishaps to misty strolls along hills in Wales and everyday life lived in Spanish towns — undoubtedly a simpler era, a less encumbered psyche.

Much the way Henri Cartier-Bresson found the “decisive moment” in his street photography, Meyerowitz captures transient moments in images from the car taken in Chartres, France, and in Greece: an airplane in the distance frozen above a narrow ribbon of pavement and a couple speeding along on a motorcycle.

Meyerowitz also displays a sharp visual wit in such works as “Musee du Jeu de Paume, Paris, 1967” and “Paris, 1967.” In both photographs, a real-life scene interacts or mirrors a picture on the wall, creating a connection in which different spaces and times co-exist.

'Work from the Sixties' by Joel Meyerowitz
‘Work from the Sixties’ by Joel Meyerowitz

Born 1938 in New York, Meyerowitz brought to much of his European work an openness toward his subjects. He did so while, keeping an a similar freshness for the scenes that unfolded in Manhattan, as in “New York City, 1963,” in which a young man in a classic American car leans out the window, a small flag fluttering at his side.

Remarkable for its loose, natural sense of composition and nostalgia without clichéd sentimentality, the photographs in Meyerowitz’s “Work from the Sixties” remind us what the world used to look like and provide a sense of who we are, here and abroad — lessons that might serve us well today.