Joel Meyerowitz takes a cue from Renaissance art for new Jil Sander campaign

The photographer revered for his street portraits of 60s New York City injects his love of colour into the brand’s fall/winter 2021 campaign.

27 July 2021

As Caravaggio’s divine figures look to the heavens, so do the subjects of Joel Meyorowitz’s images for the new Jil Sander Fall/Winter 2021 campaign. Meyerowitz – who is revered for his legendary documentation of 20th and 21st Century New York City – was invited by the husband-and-wife creative director duo behind Jil Sander, Lucie and Luke Meier, to capture their upcoming collections.

Meyorowitz’s images aim to appear as if plucked from the Italian Renaissance in Tuscany, where Meyerowitz lives and the images were taken. The region is also where the Meiers first met and where some of their most delicate pieces are handmade by artisans.

Meyerowitz muses that “A photograph is an interruption in our flow of time… we are shaken out of our dream state for a brief moment of consciousness, where we suddenly see with the clarity of a newborn who is gifted with an old eye.” The photographer shapes his images with light and colour, aiming to capture asymmetry and geometric elements present in the candid world around us. This stylistic feature is what fostered his iconic photography since the New York of the 1960s, which saw him take colour photography to newly revered heights when black-and-white photography was the standard.


Joel Meyerowitz: Jil Sander FW21 (Copyright © Jil Sander, 2021)

“Colour had more descriptive power than black-and-white” Meyerowitz said of his photography in the 60s, a sentiment he seems to grip to in these newly produced images. A photographer who describes himself as a “servant of the medium”, Meyerowitz aimed to induce the same respect and adulation for colour in this new campaign. The images for the fashion campaign seek to demonstrate the ways in which humans are connected to space and nature; how we manipulate light by creating shadows, and by default, how colour is affected and how it affects us. The same elements are what can be said to define Renaissance art.

As a man who began documenting the hecticly symbiotic streets of New York, the subjects of the Jil Sander campaign can similarly be seen to be caught either in movement or in moments of stillness framed within a clearly defined space. Meyerowitz claimed in our interview in 2018 that he was “glad” he had an “early passion for the street… paying attention to ordinary life and finding brief moments of perception… it all happens so quickly – it’s the press of a button at the thousandth of a second, life just appears and disappears”. With creative direction by the Meiers and art direction by Heiko Keinath, Meyerowitz captures models Marte Mei van Haaster and Malick Bodian as they walk down a street, lean against a wall, or sleep on a bench, bringing elements of candid human chaos into the organised nature of a fashion campaign.

“His sensitivity, sense of humour, and instinct for composition, turn reality into art,” Lucie and Luke say of the now 80-year-old photographer. “It was a privilege to collaborate with a legend of photography and a thinker like Joel.” The campaign is a new instalment in an ongoing collaborative project for Jil Sander that Lucie and Luke have initiated and will be published into a book.

GalleryJoel Meyerowitz: Jil Sander FW21 (Copyright © Jil Sander, 2021)

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Joel Meyerowitz: Jil Sander FW21 (Copyright © Jil Sander, 2021)

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About the Author

Dalia Al-Dujaili

Dalia is a freelance writer, producer and editor based in London. She’s currently the digital editor of Azeema, and the editor-in-chief of The Road to Nowhere Magazine. Previously, she was news writer at It’s Nice That, after graduating in English Literature from The University of Edinburgh.

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