Garry Winogrand (1928-1984) was a New-YORK photographer. He was born, raised, worked and was always drawn to go back to New-York. He was labeled street photographer and "snapshot aesthetic" was used to describe his work. He personally didn't believe in labeling his work. He called himself a photographer that tries to know life.
Garry Winogrand started his carrier in journalism and advertising so to pay his bills but he started working at his own work from 1960 onwards. His work takes mainly place in the streets of New-York and other cities of America.
"Winogrand seemed to be his best when he confronted a wall of humanity" is how Westerbeck describes Winogrand's photography. His photography tries to capture the chaos and vitality of humanity in the streets of New-York with new characters appearing in each frame. People in New-York are all going somewhere from somewhere in every direction crossing each others paths for split seconds of time.
Watching Garry Winogrand working in the streets of Los Angeles he is constantly moving, looking in all directions, quickly puts his eye to the view point, clicks as his eyes are already looking for a new snap in another direction. He takes pictures frantically, he is constantly moving and twitching. He is fast, mechanical, continuously looking, watching, seeing, framing, timing and triggers the shutter. He never seem to be focusing too much time on the one frame and takes hundreds of photos a day.
Part of his work is a "matter on luck", with the perfect time he could get to freeze the incredible picture by multiplying the amount of pictures he possibly tried to multiply his probability to take a perfect snap. Stephen Shore says that some of Garry Winogrand's work "freezes time". The picture feels like it stopped time, a new event has been created which existed for a split second.
|Garry Winogrand, El Morocco, 1955|
Garry Winogrand talks of his responsibility as a photographer are exclusively frame and time, content and the action of taking a picture. The picture is what the camera saw . He thinks of what to include -not what to exclude or what to crop at the edge- and only orientates his camera towards what interests him. His main interests are to capture people, their vitality and interactions as well as woman, animals, and the influence of the press on events.
|Garry Winogrand, New York n.d.|
Garry Winogrand took pictures of women walking in the streets. Although you can feel the anger and awkwardness in their eyes, Winogrand is able to capture the vitality and movement of those woman. He uses a wide lens camera but stands close up and takes the picture from above of the subject walking or stepping onto a curve. He is then able to fit the all body in the frame, "the whole figure is drawn". The energy, movement, elegance and vitality of those bodies is condensed in this "pictorial structure" Winogrand was able to create. Would you be able to take those pictures today in the streets of New York? I would say no but the way Winogrand was quick at taking pictures he probably just took it as she raise her eyes to see. Maybe if you were to use the same technique you would be able to take the same pictures today.
Garry Winogrand takes pictures of people in the streets, in a club, in a zoo, and captures interactions, bodies, energy but mainly a sense of life. "The nervous manic, nearly chaotic quality of these frames was an appropriate formulation of a sense of life". He describes a city life filled with people on the go. Winogrand strives from this energy and trying to capture it, he photographed almost every day. He developed his own way of capturing and creating links between pedestrians. The way he formed and composed his pictures by tilting his wide lens camera not to include more but capture movement and focus. He didn't simply tilt but would make a vertical or horizontal element or line to re-orientate the viewer and intensify.
|Garry Winogrand, Radio City, 1961|
Winogrand takes pictures in the streets because of its theatricality. The Zoo sequence of pictures weren't about the animals but more about people around animals and their interaction and their similarities. The old ladies face seem to have been a rhinoceros in a previous life.
"A successful photograph must be more interesting than what I photographed" says Winogrand about his own work. He only takes pictures of what interests him but he will only know its good until he develops the negative. Photography needs to be more than the content for it to be art or beautiful. Pictures describe reality, Art photography describes beauty through capturing a certain reality. Garry Winogrand sees the world as "a wonder and a fascination" that is worth showing.
John Swarkowski claims Winogrand is part of a new set of documentary photographers. Is Winogrand trying to create documents to describe his world? Winogrand "through photography tries to know life" he doesn't describe. His photography is personal and he creates moments of beauty and vitality. Also in contrary to documentary photographers Winogrand has no social goal through his pictures.
Garry Winogrand is just a photographer , he worked by instinct and didn't think of the final product. He tried to move away from what was known and taught as a beautiful picture. He tried to deal with " knowing too much about pictures". He finds that too many times photographers try to re-produce the perfect because we are formatted by what we have seen before. He moves away and finds his own way of making good photography, through frame, timing, light, tilting and content.
Meyerowitz remembers describing Winogrand's work by the word "tough" because it was "out of instinct, came from your gut, raw, of the moment, something that couldn't be described any other way". Winogrand's work is indeed born from instinct. The instinct of a city boy knowing its streets, its life and constant change.
Winogrand, Friendlander and Arbus exhibited together and would be categorised in a same bracket of photography. They were influenced by the generation of photographers that came before them and took pictures of people in the city streets and in America, Eugene Atget, Robert Frank, Walter Evans. Diane Arbus takes pictures of the uncommon people, the "freaks" and shows them objectively for who they are. Lee Friedlander is more detached and uses reflections to show the street and world reflected behind him. Those 3 photographers changed the vision of photography and refreshed the art by their objective framing. They didn't theorise their work and considered themselves as photographers.
Winogrand tries to catch the beauty of the world around him and print to share his own sense of life.