Why Colour? Meyerowitz Retrospective at C/O Berlin

 Semi Zine reviews the Joel Meyerowitz retrospective at C/O Berlin, curated by Felix Hoffman.
 New York City (1963) © Joel Meyerowitz via  Artsy

New York City (1963) © Joel Meyerowitz via Artsy

In march 2018 we visited the Joel Meyerowitz. Why Colour? retrospective at C/O Berlin curated by Felix Hoffman. The work exhibited came from the impressive archive of photographer Joel Meyerowitz and aimed to answer the question featured in the title of the retrospective - Why Colour? As one of the photographic pioneers of colour street photography the question was apt and interesting. Why shift from the, at the time, respected format of black and white photography which boasted a truly objective view, not creating an emotive response through colour perception. The main argument at the time and a very valid point was that we don't see the world in black and white so why subtract that element within photography? The topic is still discussed to this day. Meyerowitz, like so many other pioneers, didn't shy at the subjective nature of colour use in photography. He understood that colour in imagery had just as much right to be there as the subject did, as a bold statement accepting and celebrating the subjectivity of photography. Alongside the first section of work was this insightful quote from Meyerowitz on choosing to work with colour. The whole exhibition was highlighted in sections by words from the artist himself on his previous practice and how it has evolved.

Anything you have done well is worth letting go of. I was forcing myself to let go of the “incident”, which was how I made photographs since the beginning. Now I was looking at the whole field, the street, human activity, the buildings, the sky, the weather, the temperature of the light, and all of this without the usual hierarchy of content that an incident brought to a photograph. I began to call these “field photographs”, because I wanted everything in the field to be of equal importance and to be read as the overall content of the image. [...]
— Joel Meyerowitz via Joel Meyerowitz. Why Colour? at C/O Berlin.
 Florida (1970) © Joel Meyerowitz via  Oxford American

Florida (1970) © Joel Meyerowitz via Oxford American

 Semi Zine reviews the Joel Meyerowitz retrospective at C/O Berlin, curated by Felix Hoffman.
 Semi Zine reviews the Joel Meyerowitz retrospective at C/O Berlin, curated by Felix Hoffman.

 

Meandering through from his early street photography shot in black and white the retrospective leads you into an accurate professional biography, depicted through his work, of how Meyerowitz developed his practice. Early shots capturing often comedic and cinematic decisive moments develop into a contemporary still life archive meticulously staged and then into conceptually driven portraiture, landscape and still life hinting at clear vision in practice and forethought. All these genres and directives have valid place in the study of photography today.

 

 Semi Zine reviews the Joel Meyerowitz retrospective at C/O Berlin, curated by Felix Hoffman.
 Semi Zine reviews the Joel Meyerowitz retrospective at C/O Berlin, curated by Felix Hoffman.

 

I can't praise the retrospective enough. Through the creative and thought provoking curation by Felix Hoffman, the enigmatic imagery from Joel Meyerowitz and the whole archive of his progressive practice is inspiring and revealing. Any avid or amateur photographer can glean a lot from this body of work. As well as being a lovely and pleasing exhibition the whole shows serves a purpose and offers discourse on the subject of photography. Like Meyerowitz uses colour so can photography use this retrospective to learn more about the practice of photography.

What freedom! Just being out in the world, shooting whatever spoke to me or suggested itself to my eye. Actually, learning to listen to what speaks to you, rather than prejudging or censoring, is what a trip like that offered. The world is far richer and more interesting than my imagination could conceive of, and by accepting this - which is the approach to photography I still practice, and what I think is at the heart of the medium - I learned not to second guess myself and simply let the world play on my eyes. I think that is why photography still interests me, the inexhaustible abundance of the world’s capacity to reimagine itself has taught me to trust in it and pay attention to what is being offered. Out of that communion comes your work. [...]
— Joel Meyerowitz via Joel Meyerowitz. Why Colour? at C/O Berlin.
 ‘Not one of them helps’ … Paris, France, 1967, from the new book Where I Find Myself© Joel Meyerowitz via  The Guardian

‘Not one of them helps’ … Paris, France, 1967, from the new book Where I Find Myself© Joel Meyerowitz via The Guardian

 Semi Zine reviews the Joel Meyerowitz retrospective at C/O Berlin, curated by Felix Hoffman.
 Inside the pile, looking west. (Fall 2001) © Joel Meyerowitz via  Phaidon

Inside the pile, looking west. (Fall 2001) © Joel Meyerowitz via Phaidon

 Semi Zine reviews the Joel Meyerowitz retrospective at C/O Berlin, curated by Felix Hoffman.

Text by Pagy Wicks. Images by Joel Meyerowitz copyrighted. Images from the Joel Meyerowitz. Why Colour? exhibition at C/O Berlin as shot by Pagy Wicks.