Photographing a Photographer: Shooting a Portrait of Joel Meyerowitz for the NYT

New York Times staff photographer Fred R. Conrad was recently tasked with shooting a portrait of acclaimed color photography pioneer Joel Meyerowitz. Freelance videographer Elaisha Stokes went along to shadow Conrad, and captured this interesting behind-the-scenes video in which Conrad shares some thoughts on the experience of pointing a lens at a master of pointing lenses.

The portrait session was held in Meyerowitz’s personal studio in the Upper West Side neighborhood of Manhattan. Here’s what Conrad has to say:

Most of us are much more comfortable behind the lens. And to just sort of barge in on another photographer and tell him to pose. Imagine what it would be like for Rembrandt to go into Picasso’s studio and tell him which way to sit because he wanted to paint him a certain way. You feel kind of funny.

Great photographs are not taken, they’re given, so a great portrait is really when the sitter is allowing his essence to show through, and you know it when you see it.

Here’s the final portrait that resulted from the shoot:

Meyerowitz recently published a piece over at the New York Times’ Lens Blog regarding his thoughts on color photographer versus black and white. It’s worth a read. Here’s a snippet:

We carry color memories just as we do smell memories (smell being our purest sense), and they evoke sensations. And from that recognition, we develop our own vocabulary of color responses. Who knows why we choose the colors we live with, or wear, or why one color makes us feel calm and another irritable? But these biases are there for all of us and have played a role in my instinctive responses when I make photographs, and I have trusted that their power underlies and informs all my work.