Joel Meyerowitz
[Photographer, b. 1938, New York, lives in New York.]

 We think of photography as pictures. And it is. But I think of photography as ideas. And do the pictures sustain your ideas or are they just good pictures? I want to have an experience in the world that is a deepening experience, that makes me feel alive and awake and conscious. 
 “Tough” meant it was an uncompromising image, something that came from your gut, out of instinct, raw, of the moment, something that couldn’t be described in any other way. So it was tough. Tough to like, tough to see, tough to make, tough to understand. The tougher they were the more beautiful they became. 
 Arriving at the rim of this famous landmark, they shuffle about, searching for a sign that says “shoot here.” With one pre-set image labeled GRAND CANYON in their minds, blinding them to what lies below, they search for the one and only “right” spot to stand. 
 I think about photographs as being full, or empty. You picture something in a frame and it’s got lots of accounting going on in it—stones and buildings and trees and air—but that’s not what fills up a frame. You fill up the frame with feelings, energy, discovery, and risk, and leave room enough for someone else to get in there. 
 [Photographs] teach you about your own unraveling past, or about the immediacy of yesterday. They show you what you look at. If you take a photograph, you’ve been responsive to something, and you looked hard at it. Hard for a thousandth of a second, hard for ten minutes. But hard, nonetheless. And it’s the quality of that bite that teaches you how connected you were to that thing, and where you stood in relation to it, then and now. 
 I believe that street photography is central to the issue of photography—that it is purely photographic, whereas the other genres, such as landscape and portrait photography, are a little more applied, more mixed in the with the history of painting and other art forms. 
 I want to enjoy the languor of just living, recognizing, acknowledging, taking it in, sort of amplifying it in some way. [Photography] is a great medium for that. It happens in an instant, but it gives you hours or days of time to reflect on things. It’s a beautiful system, this game of photography, to see in an instant and go back and think about later on. It’s pure philosophy. And poetry. 
 The thought for us [street photographers] was always: “How much could we absorb and embrace of a moment of existence that would disappear in an instant?” And, “Could we really make it live as art?” There was an almost moral dimension. 
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