Joel Meyerowitz: Early Works

Salle Henri-Comte, Arles; 03/07/17 to 27/08/17

A small selection in a small venue, and really quite disappointing overall. I’m surprised a known quantity like Meyerowitz would lend his name to such a lacklustre show. His early work is mostly generic b/w US street photography, a little Winogrand, a little Friedlander – nothing particularly distinctive.

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He was evidently always good at composition, and has an eye for the surreal juxtaposition of people and objects that is something of a trope in street photography – but even when he pulls this off, it looks more like an Elliott Erwitt photo than something individually distinctive. The latter section, mostly in colour, starts to show the promise of the photographer he would become.

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The only image I was impressed with is the one I’d already seen many times as it’s the lead image for the exhibition publicity, a steamy, beautifully lit colour street image. I would have loved to have seen more of this kind of his work and less of the derivative b/w street portfolio.

Main takeaway

Not everyone’s early work is informative of their future direction; some people need time to find their feet. And big name photographers shouldn’t show up at Arles with a small and underwhelming show!