Images courtesy of Joel Meyerowitz.
In the late 70’s, Meyerowitz was commissioned by the St. Louis Art Museum to document the city. He stated that he wished to photograph there “without preconceptions or any need to pass judgment.” He noticed that the Gateway Arch, which was built in 1965, was a prominent feature of the city, and led him to use it as an organising thought for his series. The arch is supposed to be symbolic of westward expansion of the United States, and therefore seemed like an important feature to document.
As an artistic device, the Arch gives the series a certain fluidity and provides a holistic view of the city. According to James Wood, who wrote the foreword to this series, the Arch is “secular and useless, a subversive offspring of modern architecture in which form follows a purely symbolic function.” Until Meyerowitz produced this body of work, and although the landmark was one of the most photographed subjects in America, there were not many that were deemed to have artistic value. There was no specific point of view that he was instructed to photograph from, but only to respond to what he found to be visually interesting in the city. The photographs are clearly very considered, and were produced over four extended visits to the city in different seasons.