Joel Meyerowitz Fujifilm Recipe

Standing on the shoulder of a giant

Øyvind Nordhagen

--

Untitled. Oslo August 2022

Throughout the summer I happily shot with OWH Film for everything. I still shoot a lot with it, but using fixed white balance got me thinking about serendipity. The fact that certain things are best left uncorrected because then it better represents a mood, even if some things are “wrong”. I have never been good at deliberately adjusting my images to anything but “correct”. That’s why I love playing with Fujifilm recipes.

Joel Meyerowitz is one of the all time great street photographers. His work was well known to me, but I saw one of his images one day and I couldn’t move on. This one:

Joel Meyerowitz: New York City, 1974

It’s one of Meyerowitz’ classics and it so well represents a point in history in New York. Aside from the great situational awareness and intuitive composition skills he’s showing here, I stopped to think about the color palette. I wondered if I could recreate something like this in camera, so I tried.

Distilling the look

I looked at many of Meyerowitz’ known images and I realised that his images are all over the place in terms of “look”. It’s a well-known fact that he mostly shot Kodachrome, but of course all film has a fixed white balance and conditions change. Also, many reproductions of his work that you can find online are not very well treated it seems, so you can’t really pick 10 images and make a recipe that will hit them all. You have to find the most important characteristics and discard the differences.

Contrast

Starting with contrast makes sense as this recipe has to look like positive film. Having spent hours looking at my dad’s slides on my youth I know a chrome frame when I see one and it’s unforgiving, especially in the shadows. We are going to go hard with this one, but doing so on digital will quickly get you to a place with very dominant pitch black blobs in the frame. Sadly we can’t program lifted blacks precisely in camera, so we need to find a compromise.

--

--

Øyvind Nordhagen

Photographer based in Oslo. I write about photographic technique and editing.