Joel Meyerowitz, best known for his 1960s street photography of New York City, began his career in an era where black-and-white images were seen as the only acceptable medium of photography in the art world. Armed with his Leica, Meyerowitz captured the intensity and chaos of the city, and became an advocate of color photography; he has played a pivotal role in its acceptance as a respected form of artistic practice. Following Aperture Foundation’s re-release of Meyerowitz’s “Cape Light” series in 2015, Beetles + Huxley, known for its established photography program, has mounted the most extensive exhibition of these works to have ever graced London.
The “Cape Light” series came to life during Meyerowitz’s vacation to Cape Cod, Massachusetts, in the summer of 1976. Since its first publication in 1978, the series has been regarded as a classic work of color photography. In contrast to his intense close-ups of New York life, “Cape Light” is gentle and serene. This time using a 8x10 Deardoff vintage camera, Meyerowitz captured idyllic landscapes, as well as interior and exterior visions of a more domestic nature.
Upon viewing Beetles + Huxley’s selection of works from the series together, “Cape Light” feels semi-autobiographical. The photographs read like a documentation of their maker’s shift in practice; as Meyerowitz states in the preface of the Aperture publication that accompanies the series in 2015, “I came to reconsider what photography meant to me, specifically how colour photography described the world to me.”
Despite the calm that “Cape Light” exudes, there is certainly an intensity in the body of work. Take for instance Hartwig House, Truro (1976), a bright image with the sun streaming through a white-washed home. The effect is powerful, almost evoking a feeling of spirituality and creates a sensory experience—we can almost feel the breeze drifting in from the front door. In his picturesque seascapes one can almost feel the stillness, or hear the rush of waves hitting the shore; two works take from a Provincetown porch teleport the viewer to the seaside. These works poignantly capture the beauty of the moment, offering the viewer a personal insight into the importance each work has for the photographer. Through the balance of muted and saturated color, Meyerowitz manages to successfully communicate the essence of each scene.
“Joel Meyerowitz: Cape Light” is on view at Beetles + Huxley, London, Jan. 26–Feb. 20, 2016.