Review by Gerhard Clausing •
Summer … sunshine … the beach … nuances of reddish hair and warm skin colors: the perfect combination for a carefree holiday feeling – moments of relief from the tedium of everyday stress. These are the perfect ingredients for this project by Joel Meyerowitz; these features captured his attention for several decades, and through this photobook he is also able to reach the viewer on many levels. As he says, his special attention was on visualizing “the flamboyant qualities of redheads. Their hair and the exotic flourish of their skin seemed to vibrate in that blue surround.”
This is the second, expanded edition of Redheads. Besides showing many special moments of connections between the photographer and the redheads he relates to, it also serves as a superb manual for how to approach the creation of effective portraits. Meyerowitz has interspersed many notes and insights throughout the book, especially valuable regarding his approaching his subjects, the moment of one or two (!) exposures on film, which not only reflect each subject but the attitude and feelings of the photographer as well. The luminosity of this group’s features and the subtleties of film colors are a perfect match.
The images, superbly scanned and printed, add up to a delightful journey through the world of another minority of our population. Males and females of various ages show off their hair with a variety of shades of red, along with the freckles on their skin. Most importantly, the informality of the poses and the pleasant openness of those portrayed are a testament to the skills of the photographer, who is able to capture that special something that ignites the moment and shows a temporary sharing between artist and subject, the “moment of fascination” (Barthes). The personality of those portrayed shines through, as the surface is illuminated from within by means of the photographer’s perception (“three layers of truth”). As Meyerowitz says, “behind the living presence is a great unknown.” The skillful interplay between sunlight and shadow and the nuanced presentation of color subtleties are a particularly appealing feature of Meyerowitz’s process.
So I urge you to study Meyerowitz’s comments and guidelines, the beginnings of a master class, and to compare them to the superb portraits in this photobook, seventy images in all. The result will be a most memorable experience, highly recommended from a number of different perspectives.
Gerhard (Gerry) Clausing, Associate Editor of the PhotoBook Journal, is an author and photographer from Southern California
Joel Meyerowitz – REDHEADS
Photographer: Joel Meyerowitz (born in the Bronx, New York, NY; lives in New York City and Italy)
Publisher: Damiani, Bologna, Italy; Expanded edition © 2022
Texts: Joel Meyerowitz
Hardcover, illustrated, sewn; 118 pages, paginated, with 70 color images, including one gatefold; 9.5 x 11.25 inches (24 x 28.5 cm); printed and bound in Italy; ISBN 9788862087667
Photobook Designer: Maggie Barrett
Articles and photographs published in the PhotoBook Journal may not be reproduced without the permission of the PhotoBook Journal staff and the photographer(s). All images, texts, and designs are under copyright by the authors and publishers.