In 1983, Joel Meyerowitz published his third book, Wild Flowers, in which he collated a series of photographs in which flowers make an entrance—often coyly, in the background, occasionally center-stage, always with a kind of vivacity that lures the viewer’s eye. “These moments are like flowers themselves,” writer Meyerowitz in an afterword to a new edition of Wild Flowers published in May by Damiani. “Within their unfolding and mysterious forms they are a world of luster and dust, silk and wax. They bloom and they fade.”
Although not specific to any one place–the shots range from Paris to Mexico to Puerto Rico to Cape Cod—the images of New York somehow stand out, a portrait of a city that is both recognizable but also different, before gentrification and money dulled its edges. In that sense the images feel more relevant now, as the city taps into its old wells of resourcefulness and reinvention, than in 2019, before the pandemic halted New York’s capitulation to big money and luxury condos. As rents tumble and chain stores retreat, there’s renewed hope that the city can again be the creative life force it was when Meyerowitz took these images.
“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,” writes Meyerowitz. “For many years my turf was around Fifty-Seventh Street and Fifth Avenue where I was energized by the wildness of the city. It was there that photography showed 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 am more interested in the stream of wedded images than in single ‘monumental’ or ‘successful’ photographs. It is in this continuity that photography has its greatest strength.”