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Joel Meyerowitz

What You Put In The Frame Determines The Photograph

Last Updated on August 13, 2015 by PixelPluck

“What You Put In The Frame Determines The Photograph” – Joel Meyerowitz

JOEL MEYEROWITZ is an award-winning photographer whose work has appeared in over 350 exhibitions in museums and galleries around the world.

As a photographer, Joel Meyerowitz considers himself as one who captures relationships or interactions in space. He is very conscious of what is kept and omitted in his frame or photo. For example a photograph of a kid looking at an ice cream truck, and the operator of the truck being oblivious to the kid. As observers of that photograph we can appreciate a relationship there and funnily enough, not even all the subjects in the image may know of each other’s existence.

Joel Meyerowitz
Joel Meyerowitz

While other photographers may perhaps focus on the ice cream truck or the kid’s face or an angle that shows both the truck and the kid but not necessarily the interest in the kid’s eye.

Think of taking an image for the sake of its innate beauty or attraction but not necessarily because of a tension or interaction.

The Leica comment is an aside as to why he prefers that type of camera for the type of images he captures. You likely won’t take a Leica to an air show. Just like a DSLR without 300mm lens may not allow you to truly appreciate the surroundings of street photography. The right tool for the right job is the lesson there.

Also what’s outside of the frame affects the things and people inside the frame. Beginners sometimes tend to think that the frame is an isolated system, like a stage where there’s a play going on, oblivious of the rest of the world. But it’s not.
Try throwing a Frisbee from outside the frame onto one of the people in the frame and see how quickly the picture becomes something completely different. Anticipating and preparing for such transformations is important, and requires being aware that the frame is just a cookie-cutter cross section of something much, much larger.

Joel Meyerowitz explains in this insightful video on how he searches for ephemeral connections between things around him and then the art of putting them in the frame. He explains, “When you put the frame up to your eye, the world continues outside the frame. So what you put in and what you leave out are what determines the meaning or potential of your photograph. But you must continue to keep in mind that there’s plenty of stuff going on off-stage and [think about] what bearing the rest of the stuff off-stage have…”


Joel Meyerowitz was born in New York in 1938. He began photographing in 1962. He is a “street photographer” in the tradition of Henri Cartier-Bresson and Robert Frank, although he now works exclusively in color.

As an early advocate of color photography (mid-60’s), Meyerowitz was instrumental in changing the attitude toward the use of color photography from one of resistance to nearly universal acceptance. His first book, Cape Light, is considered a classic work of color photography and has sold more than 150,000 copies during its 30-year life. He is the author of 20 other books, including Legacy: The Preservation of Wilderness in New York City Parks (Aperture), and his 50 year retrospective book, “Taking My Time”.

h/t PhaidonPress & Wiki

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