“It seemed to me that the French liken the twilight to the notion of the tame and the savage, the known and the unknown, where that special moment of the fading of the light offers us an entrance into the place where our senses might fail us slightly, making us vulnerable to the vagaries of our imagination.”
London gallery Huxley-Parlour presents thirteen large-scale photographs by iconic American photographer, Joel Meyerowitz.
One of the medium’s most important living practitioners, Meyerowitz was a key figure in the color movement of the 1970s alongside the likes of William Eggleston and Stephen Shore.
His profoundly absorbing imagery expressed the profound potential of color (contributing to its eventual acceptance by the medium’s captious tastemakers), no more so than those contained in his acclaimed 1978 photobook, Cape Light.
Regarded as one of the most influential of the twentieth century, this series of large-format color depictions of Cape Cod, Massachusetts, captured on a large format camera over the course of two summers, is truly extraordinary. Up until that point, Meyerowitz had shot predominantly in 35mm, the preferred format of the street photographer, its size, weight, and portability conferring a dynamism that was essential in capturing life on the stoops and the sidewalks of New York City.
The 8×10 inch Deardorff could barely have been more different, a bulky, and (to the unknowing eye) antiquated machine, of brass, mahogany, and leather, that forced Meyerowitz to revaluate his entire approach. However, what the camera lacked in dynamism, it made up for in other areas, the large exposure plates and longer exposure times affording deeper studies of light and form.
In preparation, Meyerowitz studied the work of French photographer Eugène Atget, a pioneer of large-format, as well as some of the members of the influential Group f/64, (such as Edward Weston and Ansel Adams) who formed in the Bay Area in the early 1930s but had fallen out of vogue at the time. He departed for Cape Cod, armed with his new tool, and a sense of excitement and anticipation at the wealth of creative possibilities it could provide.
Displaying considerable patience and aptitude, as is required of the unwieldy format, Meyerowitz captured the ever-changing complexion of this iconic American holiday resort, his profound apperception of light, form, and composition, essentializing the sultry ambiance of the North American summer with profound palpability, thus rendering relatively innocuous scenes, truly compelling.
The body of work formed the basis of his latterly published ‘Between the Dog and the Wolf’. Inspired by the French translation, ‘entre chien et loup’, a multi-dimensional phrase used to describe dusk (when the light is such that it is impossible to discern between a dog and a wolf), though more figuratively, the fine line between the familiar and the unknown; between comfort and danger, these large-format images, captured during the 70s and 80s predominantly in Cape Cod, along with some other coastal parts of the United States, further asserts Meyerowitz’ distinct, artistic sensibility.
Using this body of work as a departure point, though incorporating imagery from Cape Light and his acclaimed 1983 photobook, Wild Flowers, this landmark exhibition at Huxley-Parlour’s central London gallery elaborates on the two they previously held with the artist (Cape Light, 2016, and Towards Colour, 2017), in affirming Meyerowtiz’ role in shaping the very landscape of contemporary photography, and, at a time when photography enjoys unprecedented ubiquity, emphasizing the importance of thoughtful, carefully-composed imagery.
NB: Joel Meyerowitz – Between the Dog and the Wolf is on view at Huxley Parlour, London from 12 July to 20 August