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Lessons Joel Meyerowitz taught me about Street Photography

I recently found a great interview with Joel Meyerowitz. I wanted to share some of the things that stuck out to me, and how I hope to apply them in my street photography work.

I am not a collector

Meyerowitz explains how he is not a collector of object images. He avoids shooting straight in the centre of the frame, simply collecting photographs of people as though they are objects. Rather Meyerowitz tries to build relationships between people where there may not be one. He wants to make connections between unrelated things using the entire frame.

Suggesting Relationships

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This classic photograph by Meyerowitz, is perhaps the best example of how a suggested relationship can be captured. The man that has fallen on the ground, the gather of people around him. It seems no-one is taking anything to do with him. Then we notice the man stepping over him. The suggestion is that this man has pushed over or knocked him out with the hammer he is holding. Its impossible to tell what really happened. Suggested relationships are powerful language in street photography, it’s key in telling a story.

A Magnetic Image

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Meyerowitz desires magnetism in his photography. Elements or people in the image should feel drawn together. The potential action, the suggested relationships and what is and isn’t included in the frame all come together to create a kinetic image. It feels like there is a dynamic potential movement.

How will I apply this to my own Street Photography?

I have felt in the past that I am just collector on the street. Waiting for a strange person to walk past or an unusual event. Of course that can be and is a very viable element of street photography. However after watching this interview and becoming inspired by looking at more of Meyerowitz’s photography I can see that taking time to frame and search for magnetic relationships in my photography can improve the story telling element that I’m searching for in my work.

If you would like to see more of Joel Meyerowitz’s photography I highly recommend this book! Joel Meyerowitz: Where I Find Myself: A Lifetime Retrospective

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