I've been enjoying Joel Meyerowitz's instagram feed which draws heavily from his archive. In so many of his photographs I feel the photographer's awareness intersecting not only with the movement of figures and scene, but also with the particular quality of light that will inevitably change. I particularly enjoy his 1970s color street photography. This opportunity to see work that would otherwise be inaccessible, and to receive it in a way that, while not random or unstructured, can still feel surprising and serendipitous, is, for me, one of the pleasures of Instagram.
I feel the same way about used bookstores. I had the good fortune of coming across a copy of Meyerowitz's classic Cape Light in a shop last week; I hadn't looked at the book in many years. Meyerowitz's studies of light and space and its portraits clearly inform so much that followed. The color and atmosphere of the light is not a reason to photograph - it is the reason to photograph.
The conversation between Meyerowitz and his friend Bruce MacDonald that introduces the photographs is an exceptional text. Over the course of five days the conversation between the two ranges between different aspects of Meyerowitz's work: how situations speak to the photographer and call him to make a picture; how this is like falling in love; his compositional strategies (after reading about his method of creating tension on the horizon line in a photograph of a clothesline between two houses, it becomes evident in several of the photographs in the book); his path to this body of work; what he thinks his photography is about. There's a funny anecdote about meeting Cartier-Bresson - Meyerowitz and his friends learn from him how to use a wrist strap to throw a camera out at people and then snap it back - and Meyerowitz speaks fondly of his photographic companions, including Garry Winogrand and Tony Ray Jones. Little surprise that he would go on to co-author Bystander: A HIstory of Street Photography with Colin Westerbeck.
The conversation, in its fluid, interwoven organization, reflects the way in which all of these aspects of Meyerowitz's relationship to his work are organically connected. The experience of being somewhere is enmeshed in the process of making pictures, looking at pictures, and how he understood where he had come from - and where he felt compelled to go. "I don't really want to talk about one aspect of these pictures more than the rest. The fact is, I'm trying to photograph the wholeness of my experience. I'm trying to pass that experience back into the world." Just as with his photographs, which are sometimes rich in information but which always exist as whole things, so also with this conversation about photography. There is a lot of information inscribed, but it's a matter, more, of what it all adds up to: a form of knowledge and the expression of the impulse to communicate experience.
I stopped in at the Paint Cabin last night for the opening of the Toronto Urban Photography Festival, in its third iteration. While "urban photography" will likely bring street photography to mind, that's not the focus of this festival, which invites a broad consideration of how urban spaces may be an element of photographic narratives. Many of the projects explored the relationship between city spaces and individual histories or modes of being in a city: Andy Day's "Buildering" series of a collaborator climbing on buildings and sculpture, reimagining and claiming the space; Levent Erutku's portrait of a flamenco dancer in "typical" Canadian building sites; Lucy Lu's "Overheard", an audio montage of re-readings of conversations that she has overheard in public, set in relation to photographs and animation with the photographs.