TCF Ep. 500 - Joel Meyerowitz

Automatic TRANSCRIPT

On February sixteenth. Two thousand six a hit the return button on my keyboard and uploaded the very first episode of the candid frame which featured a conversation with the UN wind photographer. John Isaac now almost fourteen years later. We release episode five hundred. The one you're listening to right now. When the idea for the podcast I came to me? I had a general sense. It would be successful by that. I mean I knew there would be an audience. I knew that because it was the kind of show that I wanted to hear but it didn't exist. There were certainly other photography. PODCAST S.. Out there by people who would become friends like Jeff Curto Martin. Bailey Chris Marquardt and John Arnold but the specific show. Oh that I wanted to hear just wasn't around so I created it myself. I did this even though I barely undestood with. podcasting wresting was. I also didn't know anything about recording or editing audio creating and maintaining a website nor did I have any idea what an RSS feed was. My only real advantage was that I had access to photographers and I had a lot of questions. The show started with only a few dozen listeners but now there are thousands all over the world and while it may not be the most downloaded photography podcast out there. I'm very proud of what it's become and what it's meant to so many people. I love what I do here. I'm always so excited when I have a chance to sit down with someone and chat with him for an hour because regardless of their level of fame or success. I'm just hoping for great conversation than another human being and when that happens. It's just as good as I've gotten interviewing people and producing the show. I have to thank the many listeners who provide guide me audience and who by subscribing increasing numbers. Let me know that I'm onto something. I'm also really thankful to Marco Torres who let let me his digital recorder so that I could record my first episode and my fellow. Og podcasters as well who welcomed me into this new and growing medium. I'm thankful Martin Taylor who volunteered his video audio skills to the production of the show years ago. And lastly I have to thank my wife. Cynthia who has supported reported my work more so than anyone else. And lastly I want to thank my guest for today. Joe Meyrowitz a master Mr photographer. I have long admired and I'm lucky enough to call a friend when I knew that Joel would be available for my five hundred episode. I was thrilled because every time I've sat down with him. The result has been everything I hope for for any episode and again for the fourth time. We doesn't disappoint and thanks for joining me for this five hundred episode. I couldn't have done any of this without you. This is your body anex and welcome back to the candidate frame house the year been treating. I know you're always busy but during the show I am where we believing in Tuscany for five years now and we have a little place in London. Where I'm speaking to you from and it's been good? Life has been full of interesting challenges in good way which shows coming up books on line. The commission's to do things last well two weeks ago just before Christmas and so I got an invitation from the Vatican. Wow come down and see the Vatican museums and see if I could find anything that I would WANNA photograph like a body of war not not just a picture inside the Vatican museums and so I'm going in three weeks. I have a date to go down and take the first look and see if it's a project so it's that kind of surprise that at my age now eighty one. It's so satisfying to be able to have these things. Come in that are unexpected and maybe even really interesting projects all these new opportunities that come your way that's fantastic. It's quite a blessing if you live long enough to happen and the fact that you are capable of of saying yes and those opportunities. Because I'm always amazed at your your the constitution. But you're still out there doing as much as you are so lucky. Well I hope you're up and outside a lot because I think that that was the money in the bank from the all my years of swimming and biking walking the streets of New York and I still feel physically good shape when I was watching the video. I think I mentioned that autumn. I talked to you. There's a bit in the video that you were doing for the masters of Photography series when you're talking to the camera and just behind you. There's this person that starts walking behind you and then you make dash after them because you see a photograph and that's where I wanna be. It turned on a dime walling. How did you like the mess photography course? I really enjoyed it. I've never had a chance to shoot alongside here so that's about as close as I. I've gotten today so it was really kind of seeing the way you approached it as well as hearing you talk about it and seeing you're doing at the same time I thought was really nice and then considering how well I knew your work was able to like connect all these different pieces and also understand the things that I've adopted. That are so much yours. Now we're also different so he's really sort of fascinating perspective affective well. Next time I come to L. A. which I may I think there's a gallery there that might want to show some worth. Let's plan to go for a walk together. Aw just framing clogging the streets. That'd be great. I really wouldn't quartet well. Thank you for sending out the the book really lovely but it also serves as a great point of discussion because we've talked multiple times before. I always like exploring Neil Angles. Whenever I have a chance asked to speak with you and one of the interesting things about this book is that it isn't new work? It's work that you created back in the eighties but it was an opportunity community to revisit. Those images with much different is and these are images that you've made in in province town which is at the end of Cape Cod in Massachusetts. It's and it was the the person taking care of your your archive during the time. That was the instigator for revisiting. This this work. Tell me about her and how she came to reconsider those servers so her name is Jenny Goldberg and she had worked at aperture years before he for and then she left. And I needed my archives and database reconfigured and Jenny was good at that so I I hired her she was still friendly with the people at Aperture and one day. A Michael Family Getty who runs the magazine was having a sandwich with early. Said you know I'm GonNa do on style eighties style and I'm wondering if you know of any pictures and she said Oh. My God Joel has the style photographs of province town. He was there during the AIDS crisis in during the period when people started piercing and tattooing being and gender issues started playing a stronger role in our society and our cultural awareness. You might say and so she said I send you a few pictures so she sent him two hundred forty photographs of large format portraits. It's of people on the streets of province down and you know at the time. I wasn't making documentaries about those issues. I was photographing the people that I saw on the streets I I was interested in portraiture for the first time in my life because I think the view camera gives you this advantage each of having a big machine that requires people to slow down and hold still very nineteenth century in a way and as a street photographer. Talk from my portrait's were really on the go and I never asked anybody if I could take that picture I just I just winged them on the way and and so this required a whole different set of instincts in approach in order to make a serious portrait of another person. The even ask the question who's portrait visit of them or is it does rick. Does it reflect me any case. Jenny showed Michael Police photographs and he said Oh my God there's a book here and aperture is very gender oriented publisher now. Let's do a book that had shows the segment of the population in the early eighties. And show how much it prophesies. What's come to pass now now? In the in the cultural climate we live so that in a nutshell it was how how it all came about. And I'm really fortunate that Jenny was his sharpen Arpan and committed. She was yeah and part of the world is is always been a popular draw not just for the LGBTQ community but also also for artists writers painters and of course we're dog refers and it seems to be a real magnet for eccentricity. Well you know it wasn't what drew me to Cape Cod for Jimmy. Was I wanted to gain greater uh descriptive power. I switched from thirty five to eight by ten and I thought the Cape with its with province town which which is such a strange place. Province town is like a street in Greenwich Village. It's a very dynamic. Lively Place said in an incredibly beautiful for natural seaside setting so it has a funny mix of really rural fishing town with a little bit of edge of of a kind of urban ity. So I thought oh I'll function there. I'll be able to work on the street with the view camera. will be slower but what I saw I got there. was that this town at the very end of Cape Cod which you could consider lens and these kinds of lands than places uses often draw people who want to quote get away from it all and go to the very furthest point on a coastline and then an experience what it's like to live inside that kind of community and it turns out to be a very accepting and tolerant community. It's like you you're crazy. You WanNa come to prevent joined the rest of the crazies. And and so that benefited me because it offered me a wide range of breath human beings who covered you know from Portuguese fishermen to a Broadway actors to New York New York City painters to poets and and writers and Dance Companies Opera Singer. I mean a cultural sweep came through during this tiny tiny town. There's only three thousand people there in the winter or Donna. Summer's Day there could be fifty thousand people in province town just just for the day you can see from this description how rich environment it might be to kind of study. The it's like the tide brings in all the stuff and deposit there for day and you can walk around and pick up bowl these beautiful sea shells and sea glass. That's how the people seem to be represented to me and I was fascinated by it and flow. I started in seventy six I. I spent the next thirty five summers in Providence. You mentioned that this was a time of transition for you where you were going from the work that you had done in the street largely in New York where you would make photographs of people. But it wasn't with oftentimes with their conscious participation participation they were oftentimes in element within the composition of the scene that you're seeing in the moment that was playing out in front of your camera when it came to these portraits. You were actually soliciting their their participation in it and one of the things that when I look at the portrait's I've heard you talk about. was that the small details that would make a street photography really saying where the very things that you were also looking for or that you would recognize in the creation of the portrait like the way someone is holding their hands. The knife digging into from or the way. They're holding a cigarette red. Talk to me about how those skills that you learned on the streets helped you to create those moments especially since you are often only making making one or two frames on your on your large format camera of the subject as far exceed got a really good observation vision of how things come about. It's true on the street in other such a mix of people activities and street photographer over has to be on the lookout for the larger. Seen that might reveal something of social interest cultural interest or sure it touches you as an artist personally but you're also sweeping up all the details away someone's carrying a bouquet bouquet of flowers and somebody else carrying a framed painting and people are looking. They're shopping their handbags or and all of this richness. This is part of the liberal kings across the street photographs frame that keep the interest games so when I started making portraits shirts of these people and by the way I used the same instinct you might say if I'm walking down the street in Providence. Town people are just coming impasse and suddenly one person for some reason did has a kind of vibration that touches whatever lie core vibration is and I sense the possible harmony and in those moments I would sort of have to get my courage up and cross the social barrier between strangers and go over to this person and say hi you know I really need to make a portrait view and of course I'm standing ending their six foot told count on pod and they immediately see what's what's wouldn't camera what's this guy doing as so in a way. Hey the camera access bait and people would take me seriously. Wouldn't think I was going to run up with with an iphone. 'cause in those days there were no iphones and so people would be curious about me and it would allow me Joss that breath with two to establish a kind of communication mm unification rhythm with them. It could be playful. You say something funny or your you make an observation about their their clothing or the way there sunburn looks something and and by establishing that human moment and then getting them to say yes I could then say oh well. Let's stand over here and I'll set my camera up and then I would tell him. It's GONNA take a couple of minutes because this is a nineteenth century entry instrument. It's a very slow and really what I want from. You is to be able to look into the camera I'm only take one unframed. I want you to look into the camera and if possible. I want to see if I can see your secret. Whatever your hidden it is I'm hoping to deliver it to the camera? And then I would tell to hold still focused the camera night but the holder wondering pull out the dark slide. And then I step aside so that I'm alongside the camera. I'm not behind it like a thirty five millimeter. And at that point I have to keep a line of conversation between me and then like a thin thread like a spider's peters web thread in which I'm holding them there so that they can feel a kind of a moment of relaxing thing and giving themselves over to the camera so I don't press the button when I see them Posey smiling too much chill borders in our giving their body some kind of cute form I wait until they dissolve and some instinct in me says the reality is telling itself in this moment. Now it's it's a risk you know you can be wrong. Fifty percent of the time I so you say yes. And it's it's no but I've I've trained on the street for long enough and I certainly learned as I was making these portraits. How to read human potential? I could see someone who's unsettled. You know and I would just hold on a little longer and talk to them a little more until I got them to kind of just melt because I want. I think this is important to consider for all your listeners is. Is that portraiture particularly today. In the era of the smartphone is very self conscious. And everybody's posing in trying to look look their best. What I wanted was the possibility of intimacy of human intimacy between two strangers? Here's where someone would trust me enough to relinquish something of this secret to the camera and I think if you look at these pictures carefully in province town is almost in every picture that you get a feeling that your with the person. It's not a stage studio portrait. There's something vulnerable about these. People I don't know is that. Is that your experience. There's a genuineness miss their that comes across in in your portrait's which is something that I really love and something that I always strive to achieve in my I own photographs but as you said with mixed success but you wrote something interesting in the book about the three sort of components that bet sort of make. That's how much the photograph but the experience of making the photographing and we've talked about the third point. The first point was having an understanding of how the camera sees having an understanding of how the photographer photographer sees and then the third thing in terms of the almost indescribable X. factor of the recognition of the genuine. In your moment and it seems that a lot of people get fixated on the first here because you have to have become comfortable with the first two in in order to be able to give yourself up to defer thing which is so ephemeral yoursel good and thin really understand the nature of this game of site that we photographers play with the world large accuweather it's portraiture animal photography landscapes. Whatever it is this some way in which we have to merge with the subject object and the moment in a way we have to give up our own ego and our self consciousness and feel the potential meanings in the moment and that comes like a breeze? You know it just comes over us and we recognize is he didn't know in a moment and it's in those moments that photography exists because that's when you press the button photography captures a moment two two hundred and fifty years of the second one hall second. Mike Portrait's often anywhere from a quarter to a whole second. Sometimes Times longer. There are some of those evening portrait's which are three four five seconds long so it was a big risk that people will move so that the skills skills that one has to learn to maintain the subjects stillness and and the purity of their giving over of themselves relinquishing their secret to camera operated by someone they just met. This is mystical stuff. You know it's like being a magician. Tribal elder who knows how to pull these truths out of somebody but it takes a lot of time and belief that you can do this. You have to be patient. Washington often call enough inside so that all of the messages that are coming from the moment and the subject you are receiving in clearly no anxiety or haste even though speed photography's fast instantaneous. You can do it fast. But not hastily otherwise if you expand the moment of consciousness your own consciousness as an artist time becomes flexible. So that in the St- space of recognition calms the thousandth of a second pressing the button. You know what I mean. It's like how many different ways are there. This is almost like Einste- Einstein's physics in a way about time you can manage these two dimensions dimensions of time in the same living consciousness of of your being there recognizing raising the camera pressing the the button and knowing that you have crossed tests with this moment of what of your destiny that you've created this moment or oh you've witnessed this moment and I I know is probably gonNA sound to our listeners. A little bit you know like new agey and you talked to any serious photographer. Who's done it during the course of their lifetime and they will say something similar because it's not only mechanics? There's a an understanding of the temporal nature of times movement and passage and the the actions. We see that take place in that are things we can comprehend quite fully if we've practiced the medium long enough and and you know it's something to aspire too. I think that for all of your listeners out there photography isn't pure mechanical press the button the same the Lens photography also in spiritual dimension in which your humanity humanity is what is being recorded along with the subject matter and if you look at the work of any great photographer Robert Fry Right Caccia Brisson. UC again and again in the photographs the expression of their humanistic qualities this. How moved they were by what they saw? It's not just design out there. It's something that is so a special about this media that a machine can record emotions and feelings and and humanity entity and we give to each other as as are offering. It's not just about shaping a picture nicely in the frame but how much how much compassion or emotion or understanding can you bring to the frame with with an interesting arrangement of all this information and I think that's the secret of photography the Twenty First Century for me what I love most most about it is its ability to solicit solicite wonder especially when it's the most ordinary and familiar scenes subjects. You know the the details that become so important in a portrait always hold fascination for me because they are often so subtle subtle and my new and I think that what I love about. It is the presence of awareness. You have to be in that moment in order to be able to recognize it because as you know touchy feely as it can be sort of recognizing the moment that you actually release the shutter it. It's actually because you're paying attention. Not just to the person's face but the way. Their shoulders are the placement of their feet. All all those small little almost almost imperceptible things when all of a sudden they just sort of come together and then you recognize it and you make the photograph and it's the same thing that I experience on the street where it's the light. It's the person walking in front of me. And then there's also this person in the background in this person closing an umbrella and all these sort of disparate elements that are happening within a fraction of second. And then you can opt almost anticipated. And then you press the shutter. Justice comes together and I think when I look at At these portraits. There's much the same thing. Even though the movement within the frame is not as brisk as it may be on avenue but nevertheless is there and I think that that's having an understanding that even though these two different types of photography it's the same sensibility. The same sort of developed awareness. That's essential for this to be effective beautifully said and and the key word right early on in your state you said I notice. What else is photography? It's US walking around with a camera noticing doing the things that are interesting to us and it's the multiplicity of things right. The small details the large forms the shadows cut across the the movement of people. We are trying photographers. Who really understand nature of the medium where trying meaning to unify all the things? We see in an organized way in a rectangle so that it makes thanks for an interesting moment of observation to me. I I call that the game of site. It's just the pleasure of being out. What in the world and noticing the little details and the big gestures because for me? And we've talked about this before too when you hold photographing your hand oil. Look at it the book. Even you start to read the photograph. It's like a text and it's not like words on a page where you read from the upper left across the first line and down and down and tickets at the bottom of the page. The text is open ended. You can enter anywhere. The picture calls out to you. Somebody might see the thing in the center. Somebody else might see the detail in lower right hand corner of the frame we. We begin to read an appreciate the information in the in the rectangle. Each of us individually until we you begin to assemble a kind of a narrative. I don't mean a story but a narrative of the events that are happening happening in the frame that tell us about the photographers perception as well as about our own interests in this. So we as the viewer of the photograph have kind of communication with the mind of the artist through through the selection of objects incidents people lighting that that person has recorded in an instant. So it's a very very dynamic and dimensional reading of a flat plane after all. The photograph is a two dimensional bits. It's of color on a piece of paper or black and white on a piece of paper and yet it represents a three-dimensional reality that people live the pass through and and one that we all recognize. You know it's not like when you look at paintings. Every painter has his his or her own iconography inaugural scribble scratch big brush stroke circles thrown paint people choose a form for the language photographers. Were I stuck with reality. You press the button. You Got Pavement. Cars Guy Telephone Poles you know. Sign Edge people. You got all of it. How do you make sense of it? How do you render it personally? Yours or beautiful or meaningful. I mean. There's so many different things we're trying to do with the photograph in. Oh it's amazing that there aren't Dr that many photographers in the world who produce works of individual significance and beauty and meaning whose work we actually look forward to see. I know that you had a discussion with Richard Avedon about the idea of the process of making photographs. Because you like you said it only one or two burchard would make a lot more than one or two of any given given subject can. Can you tell us a little more about that conversation region. Yeah Well I. I met take avid done very early in my career. Nineteen sixty three I. I took a class with Alexi broadening. Who was the famous Art Director of Harper's Bazaar magazine and he was famous for having sort of have discovered Robert? Frank and Gary winner grand. A lot of people had taken his class. Tom Jones the English photographer. And I set seto. We'll take a LEXI's class. But within a few sessions Alexi became sick and since the class was held. Richard I have done studio in the office of his studio took over the class. And you know we just students but he and I hit it awful a little bit act then nineteen sixty three and over the years we would see each other occasionally and then one day right during the time that Avidan was was doing the people of the West Book of off all his western classical American American the American west the America and so some Ziemba or some place in Sweden had published a set of posters one of Dick Avid Don's man with the bees covering him and the other Li- woman. My red had headed young woman covered in freckles. And they sent both posters to my studio in New York and asked me to note. Could you bring an avid poster over two. So I called the up and I said I got this thing from Sweden. I bring those ensure I got to his place ice he. It was a quiet morning there. He had been working on the pictures of the West. We sat talking for a while and he showed me a lot of scouting that had been done for those people. And I said you didn't choose these people. He said. Well I I did but I have a scout out in the West I and they take polaroid's of people on the street that they think I might be interested in they fedex them to me a day later sure I send it back to them and I say hold the sky hold. This woman saved this person. Put them up in a hotel by the meal like keep them there and then when they assemble enough people he flies out and he flies out with his crew and they set up no seem in a parking working loud or something like that outside that he has daylight plus reflectors and then he just will shoot seventy eighty ninety sheets of eight by ten and I said I'm really puzzled that I said you know on the street photographer. I am not a studio photographer and I feel like I. I recognize people along the street. That means something to me and I have to enact this and go over and talk to them I said. Have you ever done that. You WanNa do that. He should know is that. I'm a studio photographer. said the magazines pick the most interesting people in the world has no to my studio. Why do I have to go out on the street cream? And besides it's important take pictures of them because you know sometimes sour or sometimes. They're they resistant or sometimes they you know they had a bad night's sleep he said so it requires me time to get to know them on the no seam on the set it and I said I get I get you know you come from that kind of professional position but I said something I have to tell you from my perspective this something else that happens in real time with real people and the skills who says you have particularly I have a feeling you would make some truly remarkable pictures if you made yourself available but like that and he kind of looked at me so to shook his head like the you have to do that they will I can I can afford to have people do my research for Redo my casting so it was like in even though he could understand my point it's like his world was too busy to to tolerate that kind of of risk taking in the studio had to keep going Before we continue with my conversation with Joel I have something really important to share with you about a former guest reg Campbell. I interviewed ranch edge back in episode three ninety seven San Antonio Texas where I was attending the four by five photo fast. Reg is an amazing editorial photographer. Who is as generous as he is talented? When I interviewed him back in two thousand seventeen he had just completed his final treatment for leukemia? He was in good good health and spirits and eager to get back to work which he did but unfortunately his cancer returned and he's fighting this battle again right now. He's in need of a bone own marrow transplant and he's waiting for a match which I sincerely hope he gets. Until then I wanNA leverage any influence that I have with his show turn encourage you to help branch and his family. I if you haven't already please registered yourself with national bone marrow registry all it requires. Ours is a swab your cheek. There's no pain involved. It's especially important if you are a person of color because we are under represented in the registry. I've been on the registry USTRY myself over twenty five years. Find out how to do this. By visiting the website and be the match dot org you can also support ranch and his family financially anciently by buying one of his prints which are available for sale on his website. It's a challenging time for any family contending with a serious illness and it's helpful not to have to worry every day about the finances. Your purchase will really make a difference in someone's life today often can we say and lastly spread the word on your social networks and get the word out there. Let's make a difference in ranch and his family's life today links for all these resources. We'll be on the website and the show note. Thanks I know at one point that of for the Cape Cod work. The you put an advertisement asking people who thought that they if if they consider themselves interesting in whatever way to come and visit you in and make a portrait to some degree. You're kind of leaving yourself open to anyone to come by an- and pose for you. How how was that different from just strictly walking around the streets of of province town with at four by five over your shoulder and basically fishing eight eight by ten General Marshall in Manhattan? Still I wrote this in on. What happened was when I started making these portraits? It was so new to me. I I found my passion almost immediately in are realize wanted as much as possible and that sure I go out walking every day. Carry the camera wherever I go but I thought if I put an ad in the local paper which I said if you are remarkable or know someone who is Joel Meyer would like to take make a portrait so now remarkable is very special word because everybody is remarkable in one way or another just for how they they look but also everybody's quite ordinary I mean we're both those things and so I wanted to see what fish which would swim up to my deck and tell me they are remarkable so in a sense I made a thousand portraits of from those adds a quote remarkable people who look like the most ordinary people so in in a way in that but it was just for me to increase the range of anti photograph. Everybody who came no matter how plain ordinary work if they came in my door and said their remarkable I said I wanNA know why. Tell me show me and you know they would take off the clothes. Show me the scar. They would tell me the stories they would. It would show me. They've got three breasts there. I mean people showed me. It was kind of amazing. So what did what did you end up learning about people's self perception as a result of that as a lovely question really I mean I think what I saw when I learned is is that all of us are equally vulnerable. We look in the mirror. We you know put on makeup it Komar hair get dressed But when we're out in the world where we're all a little uncertain as to how we're perceived and so meeting these people and on listening to them. Tell me a little bit about themselves. What what happened to me as if they could deliver something of their humanity in humanity their their tenderness? You know the compassion for themselves and and others. They became more oranmore real to me. They weren't just a facade of a person who's combed hair perfectly put on lipstick perfectly. It's a mask but if the mask can be opened a little bit so that they they come through the mass. It's as if the mask foles away and this vulnerable human being inside vibrates for a moment in front of the camera. I see that they humanity. Manitoba is three. is their reality. Believe me there were people who never could release the humanity. They stayed in pose old time. And in those cases I often felt how scared they were how they will holding on for dear life in some some way they learn trying to just keep their outside image present rather than reveal something more. Are you in special about themselves. Their secret innocent so not every picture is a success in that where he some of them may look good on the surface picture in the book that I didn't want in the book and for some reason the art director of the book kept on coming back this picture picture I would say to him. I don't it's I. It's a picture I don't really care about anymore or now it's in the book and I tell you every time I page the book I hit that picture. It's like a dead spaw. Aw and now the book is going to go into a second edition and I'm GonNa go back and say I want to take that personnel. Because it's like there's nothing there I you know I back and I don't know why he chose. What was he like? Maybe she had a camouflaged top pot or something like that but she is the one person this group of pictures actions who doesn't deliver anything doesn't let us know anything about yourself. I think would be a good. It'd be a good reason to keep it in there. Because I think that's part of the reason. Yeah Yeah I think it is because I think that that's one of the things I've I've experienced when I'm mountain camp with a camera is people come up to me and say take my picture and I never declined an opportunity to do that but when I thought about what that's about into some degree I always think this is. This is this person declaring. I want to be seen which means to some degree there. They feel like they're not being see mine. And and sometimes they they give themselves or like you just said they try to be very in control of what they're giving over but it's still coming from the very same need need and it's really kind of interesting. Sometimes to see people like fairly giving themselves. I mean completely. Open the moment and other people who asked me to make their photograph and still resist giving it over and sometimes that tension itself for me becomes interesting listing the said rather than fighting fighting fighting to try and then giving it to me. It's like okay. If that's what they're willing to give up that's telling in of itself and that for me becomes an interesting photograph because of just that true the inability to reach their potential. In a way the they're fair you could call it. Failure The human factor. And it's true quite a number of times. I photograph people who were incredibly shy. You know but they're shyness was beautiful. You could feel the effort. It was taking them to project themselves and and feeling that many incredibly sensitive to him tenderhearted to that and so I agree with you there completely lately. I've shown those kinds of pictures and there are some in this book. To and I treasure I treasure those moments because you know our vulnerability it expressed in many different ways. How that looks is is important for other people to see it because they may recognize themselves in the qualities of the picture of the people in the picture that looking at a recognized that it isn't everybody trying to look like a movie star? It was people who are. You're putting up the best front that they could or trying to give themselves in their best way is lovely. It's really lovely and I I back. I feel. It was such a gift to be able to make that addition to my life that I had a chance to understand what portraiture portraiture really entailed and and it made me feel. Even greater. Respect to history's great portraitist. You know a August Sander and the Dr Back in Paris in the eighteen forties diarmid unbelievably remarkably beautiful portrait. They seem so contemporary today. Even with the clothing of the era the people and the way he related to do you just go through the history. See these incredible portraitist who put so much on the law. I knew they. They had to go out day after off today. Even at J. on the streets of Paris he I always feel at J.. Must have been incredible talker Muslim. Treat Street wise guy because he was an actor I and then he became a photographer. And he knows how to talk to those peddlers on the street on those observe street musicians and and the the sellers of birds of fruit he stands there and somehow they in all their nineteenth century stillness give him something of their magical persona and you know I said with those pictures I look at them and I. I'm transported back in time and I think we have such a gift in our lives to be able look at photography from across all the ages and seeing what people look like and how. They responded to the photographer photographer. Hardly any different than we are. Just the clothing is different than the instruments different but human beings are still looking looking at one another affection or curiosity or you know resistance. I mean it's it's I think that probably many actress could probably be really good photographers because they study humanity and one of the interesting things about photographing people at different stages stages of their lives. Is that even though. We're all very different for all very much the same and I think about the images that you made of the prepubescent kids you. You know. Twelve thirteen where. They're just discovering their awkwardness and that takes shape in their physicality in terms of how their front of the camera or or someone a woman suze reaching middle aged or man. WHO's you know? Entering in his seventies and the way they sort of experienced themselves the way they physically manifest themselves in the world but especially in front of the camera. Then if you're observant you get to see those similarities and sometimes that can provide you as the photographer the curious to what to look for and I'm wondering and I'm wondering that considering your years of experience observing people both on the street and in terms of portrait session. What would you say some some of those things that you have come to recognize or to look for beyond just see the physicality of just a gesture you know? Everybody at every stage of the ally is attaining wisdom. Ev even a child you know by the time they get two three four five. They've learned many things along the way how to be themselves how to get what they wanted how to behave in certain situations. We're always always adding knowledge to our way of understanding our cells in the world and the world as it is and and I think that when a photographer confronts and other person to make a portrait photographer who's lived long enough to have have observed the world and start making some kinds of determinations as to what seems me like we have our own dictionary of observations that lead us to understand other people in some way through their outward physicality we have experienced so much that we recognize patterns is really what it comes down. And I think you're confronted with the B eight-year-old rolled or the eighty year old. And you recognize the way. They hold their head the way they're set of their shoulders. Are they still still coming in growing or are they giving up on a hiding or are they showing are the playful four or are they shy. I mean there are all these human characteristics that are being offered by the person that you are standing in front of and so I think by making in the observation and beginning to understand that that's like the first understanding understanding of the other person you say to yourself okay. I recognize these characteristics. This person is like this and so your your innate understanding helps you to assist that person in being more of themselves themselves. You'll know what to say. You know how to Futz around with the camera for a minute to give them a breather so that they could go back into themselves again and come aw. I think that you recognize the innate wisdom of all ages as you stand in front of these people and if you have respect for that if the recognition is meaningful enough you can draw that quality eighty from them into your photograph. That's what makes photograph. Look so good. Why do you think the an artist's photographs are as powerful powerful as they are? She did the work she went in and she went to see them into home. She stayed with them. I mean she moved moved in. It wasn't just a snapshot on the street. Although certainly there were those but when there was an opportunity to engage in their lives she went further further. And I I think that that kind of commitment. Only enriches your own understanding of human nature as as well as your own visual intelligence about how to make these pictures more meaningful. I love what you said earlier about. When you would approach people on you would not say can can I make your photographing would say I need to make your photograph? Which I think is? That's coming from the very core of of respect for another human being as you can as Darfur but during that time that you're making these images that that need was also about you making an effort effort for rediscovery. Of what photography was. It could be for you so now that you've had all these years of experience making sweater portrait portrait. How is that need different when you choose to make a portrait? I know I have to say that. It's it's true I I did need to learn about myself and about what a portrait is but that need doesn't go away just because I understand understand more now when I I still make portrait so people particularly Italy where I spend a lot of time. I think I think it's the same fascination when I see somebody whose whose life is written on them in June interesting way and I get the call because I haven't become lazy. I still get the call and I still follow the call. I crossed the distance and I say sometimes sometimes in Italian I need. It's it's like a validation or verification of human human interaction nature. I don't think that goes away. What does often away to second? There is a change I was in life the forties and fifties when I made those pictures. Iowa's I'm twice as old now and I had that need as a young man. Dan and I use a young man charm. A young man's playful this eighty year olds. You come across very differently. I go over to some young women with children and I say I want to take on the makeup photograph. I need to make photographs. There's always a little bit rid of fear that crosses their faith but this guy want from us because my charm factor doesn't work the hair had and also it's really the truth you know any age has assets to it and indefinitely the time we're living here where the proliferation of cameras in phones has made everybody. Photographer has also posted hosted some challenges because people are wary. They're afraid of what you're GONNA do with their picture on the Internet nick full of them or make trouble for that. It's a different kind of attitude out there. What nervousness life I find myself so I I have to away refashion? Meyer approach so that I play the role of eighty year old artist. Who will lead to make this picture for whatever? My reasons are so in a way. I have to be even more convincing now. Because I don't have that the smooth talking jive with when I was on my God is really sort of embarrassing to say this but you know now in all honesty. That's the reality. Everyone's GonNa face every young photographers someday. If they're still making pictures photographers they're going to have to figure out how to do it. Because I'm I'm sure that I got away with a lot more when I was sixteen with a camera than I do. Now sure you you had visibility and innocence and the charm of waking up to the richness of the world. Yeah you I've had a lot of things going for you and once you more knowing people they can misread your intention easily. It's okay. It's another challenge to work within right now for me. Living in Italy I am. I don't speak the language perfectly although I communicate I have to be. I have to really be on my toes when I I want to do. These kinds of were formal portraits. Have to be on my job as take the challenge of not speaking the language in terms of having to communicate to them what you want and what you need in in that moment probably a little more interesting for us as well. Well it's also you know it's interesting you know when you listen to a person speaking English with a Frenchaccent Italian acts NYU chalked. It sounds so good because it's it's your language but it's newly shaped with an accent and sometimes the road construction but you're okay charmed by. That's what works for me. I I make I can say what I want. I might not use the perfect phrasing but the meaning is clear her and my earnestness and my and my effort to speak their language is immediately. Embraced was always yeah. It's like so sweet so sweet genuineness sincerity bigotry. Long Way it does and you know I feel. It hasn't ended photography right now at this age is still still lively engaging and exciting. I still get that same kind of heated up at animated responds on the things. I even sometimes dash out into traffic. I try to get that to chase that person across the street. I'm a little more. Take careful now because I'm not as fast as I think. It's interesting to analyze what age has done to the way I make photographs now because it's like an athlete you know it's like Mohammad-ali getting into the ring when he was fifty you know he's he's like he don't have that speed he has wisdom but it doesn't have speed stamina power your powers failing on the one hand but your understanding understanding and your wisdom grown on the other so one has to find a way of bringing age and knowledge image limitations and advantages is the sense to focus on the art that you WanNa make less than we talked you. Were you. Were talking to me about the life that you're doing in. Tuscany was part of that related to that. Well it could be some in some sense because because I think there are a lot of factors that went into beginning to ask the question about what is a still live in photography. It's it's just another interesting question. That photography throws up but it also had location factors. It was the summertime. The temperature was so hot it was hard to be outside in the middle of the day so I was inside i. I wanted to take advantage of being inside and do something I'd never done before. I like like the idea of doing things in the near dark. Rather than in the light on no for the Light Cape light all that stuff so this was in the Dr. It's sort of the opposite and also I think there's a period of reflection that everybody will go through at some point or another about all that you've done and what's undone and in this case in my late seventies I started to look hard at singular things rather than at the the. The open ended characteristics of the street. I started to see that some objects often had a kind of mystique to them. And that if you turn the object around there was like nothing nothing nothing and then sock finally returned it to the last turn and there was something about the shape shape. The Dent discoloration the light on the scratches on the surface. Something and then you saw the spirit here. It is the object as if every inanimate thing has quality you know you could walk along the beach and look at a thousand thousand stones in the course of an hour but you only pick up to. One of them was heart-shaped and the other looked like a puppy. And those two jumped out and you reach down for them. It's as if this his spirit coal to you and said he borrowed pick me up. I want to show you some and I think that's what happened to me. My my life changed my age. All these things allowed me to consider really for the first time the spirit that some objects may have good Gordon Parks had a similar similar period for himself. And I think he was in his seventies when he started started painting these watercolors and he had a a two to level glass coffee table in his apartment which I saw what I got the chance to visit him. And he would paint these watercolors put him on the lower Shell and then he would take these found objects and he put it on up on the top and then you shoot down and and then he had like several three or four books I think in which he had those images along with poetry they did he had written as well so it was really fascinating to see if dog refer who was known largely for his sort of photojournalism documentary. Work doc sort of revisit. The still life I don't know to what degree his physicality prohibited from doing. The work was more largely known for whether whether whether this was just another outlet for his photography because he was he was doing everything he was composing. He was writing. He's you know he's still doing all that stuff. When I met him in seventy okay so I just kind of make the connection between the two of you anyways my this is I just got a copy of his book? The his his memoir were what whatever and was given to me as as a gift by young woman. Who I I did a favor for? I'm looking forward to it because I also met him and in nineteen sixty three or four Tony Ray Jones and I used to hang out with gordy junior his son who enforced. I am delighted early and we were like a tree on the streets. We would hang out with music together. We used to go to dance parties together at some point I met his dad. You know and we were like you know Gaga Young Photographers with Gordon Parks. But he was so Kline signed welcoming an interesting and he was so dashing young. I know why how is what it is to be a photographer. You know it was. He was special. I never saw him again. After Gordie junior died in. I always wanted to say sorry. Few lost awesome. I never had the opportunity. Well my last question which I ask each gases. I asked them to recommend another photographer for listeners. To discover and explore on their own and it can be anyone so many long admired or someone. You've recently discovered photographer. Begin y well have you interviewed interview Gusts Powell. I think I have been talked in talking. been talking to him about doing it but I believe I have so many people. This is episode. Five hundred. Branillo asked me who I've interviewed and I just go along. Well okay. Well I think you may have. There's there's a visit pay right now. I mean actually. There were many who work. I'm engaged with right now but is a guy named Rob Stevenson in New York. Who Works large-format eight by ten? He's done a few interesting bodies of work and he just produce a beautiful. Oh Book about Florida about the Space Center by by Cape Canaveral and the area around it. It is And Beautiful Little Book Small Publishing House you know and I happen to get his book and Gus Powell's Book Family car trouble from both of them at the same day we all met together in each us gave the other books and those two books are both breath so generous and tenderhearted and intimate had made of ordinary materials. But have a kind of I duNno a vision a vision of the world. Is they see today that I I've I've sat with these unfortunate. I just brought him down to Italy and and in fact I went to the photographers gallery in London. Two days ago to order those two book so I could have copies here. And I believe I believe that they're important contributors to the ongoing development of photography that uses old values but stays contemporary. And I I think it's so important to see this union between the old hold and the time that we live in I have great respect for them and I got mad respect for you Joel as you will know you know. I couldn't think of a better the person to interview for my five hundred episode fourteen. Th Year doing this it's one of the gifts of the show that we become friends and that have had so many opportunities to sit down and talk with you so a special thanks to you and the best to you this year wife and just you know. Thank thank you for everything you've given me and I I really on this opportunity to be under five hundred and I think I was in your first first year or two like why ninety a five or six zero six two thousand seven Nevin. When I was doing I did the the World Trade Center book? Rhyme you in person but it's always been a pleasure from the year really special barracks exc. Thank you for doing this again. Thank you thanks to Joel. All for sharing his wisdom and insight with us find out more about him and his work by visiting. Joel MEYROWITZ DOT COM. I have several workshops scheduled this year the first first one is next month in Los Angeles as part of La Street. Week held by the Los Angeles Center for Taki. It's a week long. Event presentations workshops workshops and exhibits. I'll be teaching a half day workshop in Hollywood but there will be other sessions as well by other photographers. You can find out more by visiting the link on our site or visiting LIC Fordham Dot. Org I'll be in Washington. DC for the focus on the story festival in the fall and the momentum photographic workshop in August as well as my week long workshop in Tokyo in December you'll find links for each of these on my website and in the show notes. If you're a devoted listen I and subscribe to the show right away review on whatever service you listen to podcasts. Those reviews have led people to take a chance on our show and allowed us to grow along with my recent book making photographs developing personal visual. workflow I just released my latest book. Nine pictures nine stories volume two the first one got a great response. And I'm back with follow up where I discussed stories behind nine images that I created last year. It's just eight dollars in your purchases another way you you can support the show. Purchase that in any of my previous e books by visiting the website. You can also subscribe to our Youtube Channel and our mailing list on the Youtube Channel. I don't offer critiques on images submitted by listeners like you while the mailing list keeps you updated with all. TC events including special events workshops and more MM sign up today and remember you can support the show by contributing to our Patriot effort or donating through pay pal. And if you found that you can't find every episode out of the show. Download the Canterbury. Mac which is available for both apple and Android and because of your generosity. It's free to download and use WHO's no additional purchases are acquired the game frame audio engineer. Is Martin Taylor. You can find any other. Martin Taylor Dot Com the show senior producer. Cynthia Parker Parker and our music is from Kevin mccloud. WHO's royalty free music can be found an incompetent dot com and this is ebonics and this is the candidate for I am?

Coming up next