Often cited as one of the earliest advocates for color photography, Joel Meyerowitz was instrumental in changing the attitude toward the use of color during a time when there was significant resistance to this idea. His first and much beloved 1978 book, Cape Light, quickly became a benchmark for the artistic possibilities of large plate color photography.

Cape Light is the result of two joyous and feverish summers spent in and around Cape Cod, Massachusetts, in 1976 and 1977. Best known for his vibrant street photography in fast-moving New York City, Meyerowitz came to reconsider what color photography meant for him in the luminosity of this environment. Slowing down and observing the incremental movements of light and shadow and the simplicity of it all, the photographer managed to catch a meditative state of grace with his large-format camera and produce a series of tranquil, reflective and nostalgic color photographs.

The series brings together everyday scenes – the wide skies, beach landscapes, an approaching storm, the view through a bedroom window, a local grocery store at dusk – all bathed by the stunning light of Cape Cod and captured with high sensitivity to the scale and color. As Meyerowitz himself explained, he wanted to “remove background noise and sources of distraction” from his images, trying to “visualize the complexity of his soul and emotions.” Through his eyes, this untroubled, idyllic seaside small-town life, tinged with a mood of Americana, has been imbued with a compelling and captivating beauty. Slow, meditative and experiential, these images ask the viewer to take time and become lost in the movement of color through the landscape.

The first edition of Cape Light was published in 1978, at a time when color photography was being newly recognized as an overlooked part of the medium’s history. Published 37 years later, the Aperture edition features all the now-iconic images of the original edition, newly remastered and printed as never before.

Joel Meyerowitz’s Cape Light can be purchased from Aperture for $36 in hardcover.

All photos by © Joel Meyerowitz, Courtesy Howard Greenberg Gallery. Specific photo credits are as follows: Red Interior, Provincetown, 1977; Bay/Sky, Provincetown, 1977; and Truro, 1976.

Next Story