Joel Meyerowitz studied painting and medical drawing at Ohio State University, where he received a BFA in 1959, and initially worked as an advertising art director in his native New York City. He taught himself photography after collaborating on an advertising project with Robert Frank in 1962. Inspired by Frank, his early work consisted mainly of black-and-white street photographs made with a Leica; by 1976 he had turned primarily to color photographs of architectural light and space made with a large-format view camera.
He began producing several books in 1978 with Cape Light, and has continued with St. Louis and the Arch (1980), Wild Flowers (1983), Redheads (1990), Bay/Sky (1993), and most recently, At the Water’s Edge (1996). He co-authored Bystander: A History of Street Photography (1994) with Colin Westerbeck and has taught photography at Cooper Union and other institutions. Meyerowitz has been the subject of solo exhibitions at the Museum of Modern Art, the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston, the Art Institute of Chicago, and elsewhere, and he has participated in group exhibitions such as Mirrors and Windows: American Photography Since 1960 at the Museum of Modern Art and The Art of Fixing a Shadow: 150 Years of Photography at the National Gallery in Washington, DC. He has received many grants and awards, including two Guggenheim Fellowships and a National Endowment for the Arts Grant.
Meyerowitz was one of the first photographers to make a successful transition from black-and-white to color in fine-art photography. He has been equally adept at changing his subject matter. The evocation of mood in his recent color photographs, with their apparent lack of grain and their clarity of detail, matches the incisive perception of everyday irony for which his early street photographs were known and admired.
Meyerowitz was the only photographer to be given unimpeded access to Ground Zero in the wake of 9/11. The images he captured have formed the foundation of a major national archive, and an exhibition of selected images has travelled to more than 200 cities in 60 countries.
Throughout his career, Meyerowitz has since produced over a dozen books, and a full survey of his career was published by Phaidon in 2010. Additionally, in 1998 he produced and directed his first film, Pop, an intimate diary of a three-week road trip made with his son, Sasha, and his aging father, Hy.
Among Meyerowitz’s first important exhibitions were those at Eastman House, Rochester, in 1966, and “My European Trip” at the Museum of Modern Art, New York, in 1968. He represented the United States at the Venice Biennale for Architecture in 2002, and he has been the recipient of over a dozen awards, including the Guggenheim Fellowship and the Deutscher Fotobuchpreis. His work can be found in many major public collections, including the Museum of Modern Art, New York; the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York; and the Whitney Museum of American Art, New York.