Skip to main content

photo & video

Masters of Photography

Lesson 22 of 34

Workshop Steve

Joel Meyerowitz

Masters of Photography

Joel Meyerowitz

buy this class


Sale Ends Soon!

starting under


Unlock this classplus 2000+ more >

Lesson Info

22. Workshop Steve

Lesson Info

Workshop Steve

(jazzy music) (stack bangs against table) Hello, Heather. (laughs) Hey! (laughs) Thank you for bringing these pictures. I see that you've done work that would fall in the category of conceptual work, which, um... I'm curious about. And I wonder if you would, but you've also made other pictures that are both portraiture, personal portraiture, and, excuse me, and... kind of strange, color... experiment, in a way that's also very provocative. But maybe you could talk a little bit about why a conceptual work? Which has in it portraiture. Or maybe, I'm interested in that. Tell me a little bit about this. Well, I guess I started doing photography when I was 19, and it was very much a therapeutic method of expressing myself, 'cause I suffered from depression during my teenage years. So, um... And the reasons why I didn't tell anyone was because of how I saw myself as a woman, and a black woman in the U.K., and some of those influences were from negative photographs I saw, growing up. ...

So I was interested in how photography could be used politically, I guess. And as a way to observe identity and challenge ideas around identity. So I think that's why my photography's very conceptual, because I wanna say something particular about that, and I don't want it to be interpreted incorrectly. I've got the point I wanna make, I guess. I think that's a very important understanding of conceptual. Because I've known other conceptual artists and they're not often as focused as that. It's like conceptual art as a playful idea, about doing something quirky, or doing something repetitive, or being bought, you know, framing an idea over and over again. But you've expressed it from a very personal point of view which is, I have to say, is very moving to hear. And I think this work, just on a visual appeal, right off the bat, the fact that there's a, four pictures in a box, on different colored... environments, Sets up, it sets up a question right away. And without knowing the concept behind the work, there's still something about the power of the portraits individually, grouped together, that's exciting. And I'm gonna say something that's a little ridiculous (laughs) But you remember the kinds of pictures you take in a Fotomat booth? The strip of four? We all loved them. There's something about those four little pictures placed together, that they describe a kind of quick sequence of time in which we all make funny faces, or we change, or we hug, or we do what we can. And so these have about them that same appeal. Except that you've probably made 50 pictures of them, and you've chosen to put these four together, and there's a theme. There seems to be an animation, and an expression of pleasure or happiness or... concern, or anxiety. And then some kind of a personal touch, a detail. Something they like, or... What did you ask them about, for this box? What did you say? Just bring an item which is important to you. Interesting. Interesting, right? Somebody shows a little, a little symbol. Or somebody else has a book here, you know? Somebody else has got rings on almost every finger. Or a tattoo. So... That's a social commentary about our time right now. Because if you were to ask that question in 2027, there might be a whole different bunch of symbols that people would offer as what it is they like then, and it'll, you know, be very different. 'Cause 10 years is a big difference, nowadays, the way things move. But I have to say that, I've noticed a lot, recently, a kind of trend. At least in magazines, in particular. And I'm talking about photography magazines. Of still lifes or backgrounds for people of colored no seam. But I haven't liked most of them, they felt like they were flat and dead. But something you've done, and you've allowed the background to be a little more casual or something, it has dimension. And the colors work together. If it was only one, it might be too blatant. But if I see a group of them like that, I really begin to think, hmm, even move it like this and that, the yellow and the blue and the orange and the (hums), and the checkerboard of... personalities and color together gives me a sense that this would be beautiful in a gallery. Or in a museum, or something. And big, I really would see these things big. I kind of think that, maybe six feet now. (chuckles) I mean big, because at six feet they would not quite be life size, but getting there. Because our faces aren't really very big. You know, your face is like eight inches. So if this was, if each one of these was three feet, they wouldn't almost be life size, so on a wall, you would have to confront each person, like right there. (clears throat) You know, it's, (clanks knuckles on table). That in itself is interesting to me. Have you thought about getting these out there, somewhere? I've got them coming up in an exhibition next month, but I'm having them quite small (laughs). So, it's interesting to know that bigger, they might work. He's gonna make them big for you. (laughter) He's gonna print them at-- I will get an offer, I will give you an offer. He's gonna offer to print them big for you. Brilliant, we'll talk (laughs). I'll help him, if it's gonna cost too much, I'll underwrite that for you. (laughs) Because I think you should have at least four big ones. So... It's not a long story, Joel (laughs). I didn't expect a long story but, it's a very striking image. And I was saying to Heather that it reminds me of things I've seen, historical images that I've seen, and she said... Yeah, it's all inspired by archival material. 19th century imagery of Victorian women. Interesting, you know? I mean I think that... It would be worth pursuing that. I don't know exactly why, but there's something very powerful, I mean, particularly your hands here. The grip that you have, I mean that really says something. It's quite a powerful image. Even as it is derived from a historical record, it seems to say things about contemporary life, today, too, you know, in our larger world, I mean. We've seen pictures of Muslim women, completely covered like this, too, and it's always shocking, I think, in the West, or in western countries, to see that because of our openness. I would urge you to push into that area. And even this, because this bears on that. This 19th century record seen against this, both about, you know, culture and women. I think you might be able to make a little dialectic between the two that would be very interesting. I would actually like to suggest you to Aperture Magazine. I'm on the board of Aperture, so. I think they might be interested in seeing this work, anyway. Great. (chuckles) Anybody have any comments they wanna make? That's really interesting work, isn't it? Really interesting. I just noticed that too, the gripping fists. And is that intentional, or did that just happen because you were covered? So I'd write a diary. And my, the person who was assisting me was reading my diary out, and those were just... [Male photographer] Oh, god! Yeah. (laughter) Just stuff I was, just automatically. And then when I told her I'm ready, I just told her: now. Right. So she was saying this stuff-- [Male photographer] Pull the shadow in. Yeah. Yeah. [Female photographer] Clever. [Male photographer] Right. So it's anguish? I don't even remember what it was, to be honest! (laughs) Well. (stack bangs on table) Thank you for bringing your work. No, thank you very much. You know, it's interesting when a photograph or an idea is challenging. And you have to think about it. One may reject it, in the long run, it doesn't really matter. But if it provokes a dialogue, then it's already functioning. It's serving, in some way. Even if we don't quite understand, or if it hasn't fully matured yet, and you have doubts about it too. In a way it doesn't matter, it's visually provocative, one wants to keep looking at the comparison between the two, or the four, rather, and read human character in this way. So, thank you, really interesting. Thank you. Thank you very much. (jazzy music)

Class Description

Internationally renowned and award winning photographer Joel Meyerowitz is known for his iconic images that encompass decades of capturing all genres of photographs. Masters of Photography is bringing Joel’s class to CreativeLive to share the learnings from his vast career.

You’ll learn:

  • How to find a subject to photograph
  • How to improve your compositional skills
  • How to determine correct lighting
  • How to print your images and also create a photo book

Walk with Joel through picturesque Tuscany, bustling Siena and the vibrant streets of New York as he shows you how he creates his photographs. He will shares ideas, experiences, and his secrets on how to make great images. Joel will also suggest ideas for projects to try yourself. You can use any device from camera phone to DSLR, but in the end it’s all about you and your photography.

Ratings and Reviews

Student Work

Related Classes



I have an all access pass and thought oh no, I have to pay for this one? I bit the bullet and I am so glad I did. Joel has a great deal of wisdom and experience because of his age. BUT, despite his age, he exudes a fountain of enthusiasm, playfulness, curiousity and constant wonder surrounding his subjects. He opened within me the possibilities of exploring different photographic subjects and allowing myself to experience the fun in pursuit of those subjects. I love the way he shows how someone can take the same ho hum scene, but then look around for a different point of view. He is indeed a Master and I thank Joel for the class.


This is a absulutely fantastic class. Joel Meyerowitz takes you on an journey of little but important advices. In each short video you got some jewels to improve your approach, your view and your art. I own a lot of classes here on CL, but this one is one of my favourits! Gentle and human. Thank you Joel Meyerowitz, you helped me a lot on my journey to develop my photography.

Cosmin Dolha

What do you do after you learn all the mechanics, the technical stuff, exposure triangle, lights, where do you start? Because I am starting, now! You will find encouragement and guidance, and real applicable wisdom. If you are new to photography as I am, this course will point you in the right direction. What a treasure! Thank you CreativeLive for this and thank you Joel Meyerowitz for taking such a gentle approach to such a complicated subject, that is photography.