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03.06.2021

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Flowers have always been an important topic for photographers; yet they also represent a real challenge, as there are few subjects that run such risk of falling victim to clichés and trivialities. Fortunately, this collection by Joel Meyerowitz offers the viewer a very different kind of display  – the photo book does not present lush floral arrangements or single, filigree blossoms; rather, it reveals a diversity of surprises. This is no wonder, as Meyerowitz did not assemble his Wild Flowers with the passion of a collector: on the contrary, the series emerged quite by chance, while he was looking through his entire body of work; a vase in an empty shop window; a flower arrangement at a funeral; a floral print on a blouse; a unicycle rider carrying an enormous bouquet of paper flowers; a carnation in a bridegroom's button hole. As often as not, the flowers are not the main focus of the picture; they tend to put in a rather casual appearance; and at times you have to really search to understand why a particular motif was included in the collection at all.

For nearly sixty years, Meyerowitz has been tending his visual garden – in the streets, parks and cities where he visits or lives. He proceeds with eyes wide open and full of passion; because, according to his credo, “That’s what’s so wonderful about life: the most unexpected things happen, and if you don’t have a camera, nobody knows.” Fortunately, a Leica is his constant companion. According to the photographer, “I was fortunate to learn early in my career that you can stop almost anywhere and, if you watch carefully, something of interest will emerge from the tumult or the void in front of you – but only if you give it all of your attention. For a while I didn’t know that I was making a garden: I was simply doing what gave me pleasure; walking and looking and taking in whatever the day had to offer.”

The first edition of the original photo book appeared in 1983. This new extended edition – now in a larger format – presents many new images, unpublished to date. “Making this new edition of Wild Flowers has given me the opportunity to do some weeding and transplanting, as well as adding some newcomers. In that sense, this particular body of work is akin to gardening, in that it continues to be a work in progress,” the photographer explains. In her foreword to the book, author Maggie Barrett offers this perceptive assessment: “While each of these images immortalizes the given moment, the subject matter reveals the ephemeral, temporary nature of existence. Like all well-tended gardens, Wild Flowers is a book you can wander through over and over again, and each time discover something new.”

This work of art, then, is a wonderful opportunity for readers to once again explore the photographer's great oeuvre and passion for visual gardening. (Ulrich Rüter)

Joel Meyerowitz – Wild Flowers
128 pages, 86 colour prints, 24 x 31 cm. English.
Damiani
Rockport, Massachusetts 1965
Paris, France 1967
Paris, France 1967
Coronado, California 1971
San Cristóbal de las Casas, México 1971
New York City 1966
New York City 1974
San Juan, Puerto Rico 1974
Paris 1967

Joel Meyerowitz

Born in New York City in 1938, Meyerowitz grew up in the Bronx. He first studied painting, before working as an Art Director. He has been considered one of the great representatives of American street and colour photography, since the sixties. He lives and works in New York and in Tuscany.

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