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Large-Format Photography

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The 1939 edition of Robert Frost’s Collected Poems contained an introductory essay that wasn’t in the first edition. In that article, entitled “The Figure a Poem Makes,” Frost wrote, “Like giants we are always hurling experience ahead of us to pave the future with against the day when we may want to strike a line of purpose across it for somewhere.”

Though he didn’t know it at the time, acclaimed photographer Joel Meyerowitz began hurling his own experiences ahead of him in 1962. While working as an art director at an advertising agency, Meyerowitz met photographer Robert Frank who was shooting a clothing brochure. Meyerowitz watched Frank move while he photographed, and he had an incredible epiphany. On the way back to the office, Meyerowitz walked the streets of New York for more than an hour. “I felt like I was reading the text of the street in a way that I never had before,” he says.

When he returned to the office, Meyerowitz told his boss, Harry Gordon, that he was quitting. He wanted to be a photographer. Gordon then asked him a crucial question: did he have a camera? The answer was no, so Gordon lent him a 35mm camera and Meyerowitz embarked on the great journey of his life.

Over the next 50 years Meyerowitz exhibited at the MoMA, received a Guggenheim Fellowship, published books and taught photography at Cooper Union. But there was always one place where you had a chance to run into him and become immortalized in his gargantuan body of work. Meyerowitz is, first and foremost, a street photographer. Though he has shot street scenes in France, Germany, Atlanta, Ohio and dozens of places in between, the chaotic streets of New York City make up his favorite studio. “Fifth Avenue is my boulevard,” he says. “No street in the world, and I’ve traveled a lot, has for me the kind of sexy, improvisatory collisions between elegance and lowness. You can see bike messengers and models, billionaires and hustlers, and it’s all out there every day.”

That first day with Robert Frank served as more than just a catalytic inspiration; it laid the foundation for how Meyerowitz would record street life. He bobs and weaves through the throngs of people, searching for that serendipitous moment that becomes a great photograph. “The way someone makes a gesture on the street or the way couples react to each other or the simultaneity of two things happening at the same time and the relationship between them,” are some of the elements he looks for. “It was the wonder of human nature and this incredible capacity for things to keep showing themselves to me,” he says.

 Taking My Time (Phaidon Press, November 2012)

Phaidon Press

Joel Meyerowitz: Taking My Time (Phaidon Press. Limited Edition including signed print, November 2012)

When he is shooting on the street, there isn’t much time to contemplate each moment. “Photography takes place in a fraction of a second,” Meyerowitz says. “There isn’t a lot of time to think about things. You have to hone your instinct. You learn to hone that skill and timing so you’re in the right place at the right time.” Although he has made images that have moved audiences for decades, that has never been his true motivation. “I’m not out there to make another ‘great picture,’” he says. “I’m really out there to feel what it feels like to be alive and conscious in that moment. In a sense, the record of my photographs is a record of moments of consciousness and awareness that have come to me in my life.”

This year, the 50th anniversary of when he first took up the camera, Meyerowitz compiled hundreds of his favorite images for the two-volume collection, Joel Meyerowitz: Taking My Time (Phaidon Press). The project isn’t just a greatest hits collection. “It’s easy to make a book of your very best things and not necessarily have a narrative arc,” he says. “I wanted to stick strictly to the chronology as precisely as I could and show my own development.” The result is a visual biography of an artist who for half a century has snapped moments–fractions of seconds–and preserved them forever. Each tells a unique story that Meyerowitz has used to pave his life. Through the images of people and places and tiny moments in time, one can see a remarkable line of purpose he has created, one that runs fluidly across the experience of his life.

Joel Meyerowitz is a New York City-based photographer. Beginning Nov. 2, his work will be displayed in a two-part solo show at the Howard Greenberg Gallery in New York.

LightBox previously featured Meyerowitz’s photographs of the destruction and reconstruction at Ground Zero.

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In her projects, Corinne May Botz reveals a dark obsession with domestic space and what lies behind closed doors. Often times the home is used as a stage to explore mysterious moments about life and fears of death. This is evidenced in her past series which include her book The Nutshell Studies of Unexplained Death (The Monacelli Press, 2004), where she photographed models of crime scenes based on actual homicides, suicides and accidental deaths created to train detectives to assess visual evidence. In the project Murder Objects, she photographed household items that were used as evidence in violent crimes, and in Parameters, she explores the homes where agoraphobics live. What eventually comes together in all of this work is an idea of how we use seeing to come to terms with something invisible like crimes we didn’t witness or fears that are unexplainable.

Her latest book Haunted Houses is no different and uses photography as a way of exploring an invisible history of the spaces we live in. Here, Botz tells TIME what inspired the project:

“The first thing that inspired the project were writers like Edith Wharton, Charlotte Bronte and even Toni Morrison. Often these ghost stories were written by women as a means of articulating domestic discontents. I was interested in the idea of a woman being trapped in the home or by domestic space and how this was expressed in history. That combined with the desire to travel led me to photographing the houses.

It has almost become a right of passage for photographer to go on a road trip like Robert Frank or Stephen Shore and traditionally it’s work about public spaces but this project is about private spaces. It’s amazing how many people let me into their homes.

A lot of time I would just show up and knock on the door. When I photographed in haunted houses, I tried to open myself to the invisible nuances of a space. I photographed using a large format camera, with exposures often ranging from a few seconds to a few hours. Though the medium of the visible, photography makes the invisible apparent. By collecting extensive evidence of the surface, one becomes aware of what is missing, and a space is provided for the viewer to imagine the invisible.

I worked on the project, on and off, for 10 years photographing over 100 houses and recording over 50 oral ghost histories. (You can listen to them here)

Unlike the majority of horror films where the ghosts arrive as a result of an inopportune death, or to right a wrong, the inhabitants of these houses are often at a loss for why the ghosts are there, and in some cases the ghost is considered a source of comfort.”

In terms of people…many of them like their ghosts and and the comfort of not being alone, they like these caretakers protecting the house and having these histories attached to their house. They like having their everyday life have some kind of surprise or mystery to it.”

Haunted Houses (The Monacelli Press) is available here. Corinne May Botz’s work is currently part of Crime Unseen at the Museum of Contemporary Photography in Chicago, which is on display through Jan. 15.

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One week after a deadly wildfire killed 25 people and destroyed more than 3,000 homes in Oakland and Berkeley, California in 1991, photographer Richard Misrach photographed the aftermath. “There were no police barricades, and people hadn’t really returned,” he says. “It was just completely devastated, very much like a post-apocalyptic movie.”

Misrach decided early on not to show the work, but on the 20th anniversary of the fire, the photographer is finally unveiling his images in a new book published by Blind Spot, which coincides with twin exhibitions at the Berkeley Art Museum and Oakland Museum of California Art, on view through Feb. 5 and Feb. 12, respectively.

“There was so much coverage, it was almost like a media spectacle,” Misrach says of his decision not to publish the pictures right away. “It seemed like the work might get lost, and I wasn’t interested in the news component. I was much more interested in the history.” Misrach mocked up a few photographs into a book maquette shortly after the fire, but he hadn’t really looked at the series as whole until preparing them for his exhibitions. Citing Civil War photographs as a precedent, Misrach says he wanted to allow his images to serve as historical documents, shifting in meaning with time. “The pictures are not of flames. They’re not of not of people fleeing,” he says. “They’re more quiet, meditative and reflective of our relationship with landscape.”

Richard Misrach’s work is in the collections of over fifty major institutions, including the Museum of Modern Art, the Whitney Museum of American Art and the Metropolitan Museum of Art. He is represented by Fraenkel Gallery.

1991–The Oakland-Berkeley Fire Aftermath is published by Blind Spot. The accompanying exhibitions are on view at the Berkeley Museum of Art through Feb. 5 and at the Oakland Museum of California from Oct. 15-Feb. 12.

Feifei Sun is a reporter at TIME. Find her on Twitter at @Feifei_Sun or on Facebook. You can also continue the discussion on TIME’s Facebook page and on Twitter at @TIME.

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Walking the streets of New York City, photographer Richard Renaldi felt fascinated by large groups of strangers and how they seemed to relate and interact with one another. In his ongoing series, Touching Strangers, Renaldi explores this relationship by pairing unacquainted individuals for a portrait with one stipulation: the subjects must physically interact in some manner.

“I think it reveals a lot about body language,” says Renaldi. “There is clear hesitation in some of the images, and other times, you are surprised at how comfortable they are.” Often posing his subjects in a way one might for family or couple photos, Renaldi attempts to capture an “implied narrative,” bringing a new complexity to portrait-making and visual storytelling. “My objective was to bring an unpredictable variable in a very traditional photographic formula—to create a spontaneous and fleeting relationship between strangers,” he said.

Richard Renaldi

From, Bus Travelers

Inspired by an image from an earlier project, Bus Travelers, Renaldi found something magnetic about the subtle interaction between subjects in the photograph. “I really liked that picture and kept going back to it,” he says. “I kept thinking about how this one individual related to the other in the image—but also how I could extend that challenge.”

Sometimes the shoots require a bit of direction from the photographer. “Their inclination would generally be to just put their arm around each other or hold hands,” Renaldi says. “That’s sort of the most common kind of idea about touch and because I want to push this project—and I want to push the interactions between people—I needed to become more involved. The fact that someone has agreed to do it obviously means that they are somewhat open, but that does not mean that they’re going to totally cuddle up for me.”

Renaldi hopes to turn the series into a book, but given the unlimited options for portrait settings, the photographer says it has sometimes been tricky to stay on track with the concept. “I am really working hard this summer on making more and more [images] so I can get enough to publish it,” he says. “On the other hand, I keep coming up with new ideas and different scenarios and locations. This could be a whole life long project and it could go into other new directions.”

Richard Renaldi is a New York based photographer who specializes in documentary portrait projects. To see more of his work, including the aforementioned series, Bus Travelers, visit his website here.

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