menu>


For nearly twenty years now I've tended to this garden in the streets and parks and cities I have visited or lived in. For a while I didn't know that I was making a garden. I was simply doing what gave me pleasure. I went out walking, wherever I was, and looking, and laughing and taking it all in—with a sense of wonder-the endless supply of things there is to see! I have found that I can stop almost anywhere, and if I watch carefully, something of interest will emerge from the tumult or the void in front of me—but only if I give it all of my attention. Only then might the humble everyday gesture turn into the sublime before my eyes.* I like doing this—going out into the streets—prepared, with desire and a machine which is perfectly suited to the task of taking it in. The camera, like the flicker of an eyelash, effortlessly interrupts time, stops it and holds it forever. It takes cuttings of hundredths of a second and transplants them on film, and later in our minds, to grow there if they can. Walking, on the boulevards and avenues and main streets of the world, has given shape to my work. Perhaps that is also the way with gardens. Some of them, those without a formal order, are the image of a rambling intelligence, one which likes to stop at a bend in the stream or near the presence of a tree in order to feel more deeply life's offerings. I like to think of Monet's garden being formed that way. These walks when repeated form the territory and boundaries of a place, and over time, if one brings something of his own to where they stand, a garden with their design, a reflection of their pleasure, will appear. These are the special palaces—wild gardens. Mysterious and intricate and the person who formed them.

As for me, I tend toward Fifty-seventh Street and Fifth Avenue. I am happy there. I like the wildness of cities. It is there that photography has shown me my own territory as well as my journeys through it. The longer I photograph, the more I use photography to make the map of my intentions visible to me. I find I am more interested in the stream of wedded images than in single "monumental" or "successful" photographs. It is in this continuity that I think photography has its greatest strength. I drew the courage to believe that through the effort of Robert Frank in his book The Americans. Never before was there a book of photographs with the wholeness of literature and the clarity of a poem. Many photographers of my generation succumbed to his vision and through it saw the difficulties and potential of photography and the adventure in store for us were we to misread that work in our own inevitable ways.

I have always read through my work for clues to some larger subject, suspecting that it was pictured there, waiting for me to discover its meaning. While waiting, I have understood that I must be open enough to see what I have and make the best use of it. Each new subject is a step along the path.

This is how I stumbled upon these flower photographs that I had gathered unknowingly. My fascination was turned to this collection, and I was stimulated by the possibility of adding to it. But above all they gave me pleasure. I began to believe that this innocent premise—"the flower"—might be enough to tie together many of my other concerns under the guise of the nominal subject of flowers, in this case viewed as flowers gone somewhat berserk—wild flowers.

Here were pictures that might never have come out of seclusion, hidden as they were in boxes marked Mexico, Morocco, Paris 1967-1980, architecture, landscapes, Vivian, and others; hiding places photographers conceive of in order to deal with the excesses of our appetite as we eye and devour the world we pass through; pictures made like penmanship practice, keeping the hand and the eye in touch while nurturing ideas on something else. I think that my search has always been to let the medium speak to me, to tell me, through photographs, where I've been and where I'm going. I yearn for a subject, and a passion, and a vision that is big enough to take it all in. Life in America, my life, life itself—can photography do all that?

Who knows? It will only say what we are capable of seeing. I understand now to accept the sparks that fly from any contact with myself, however they are struck. I know that at the heart of it the premise of these pictures courts failure, but one has to attempt the risk in order to measure their effort, or as has been said, "…anything worth doing is worth doing badly."

What you have seen then is my garden. The varieties growing here are life's familiar ones-the dailies, within which there are the processionals, the maritals and burials, some lyricals as well as some conventionals, and among the more carefully watched rituals there might even be events to see, for as simple as they are, they are beautiful. They hold the mysteries and pleasures of life although they appear familiar. These life moments are like flowers—within their unfolding and mysterious form, they are a world of luster and dust, of silk and wax. They bloom and they fade.



© 2003-2006 Joel Meyerowitz Photography, LLC. All rights reserved.