Garry Winogrand

well seen, well said

By | photography, street photography

Two more of Garry Winogrand’s quick (and often funny) remarks. I had not heard these before, and think they are too good to miss.

When he was photographing on the streets with a photographer friend (as he sometimes seems to  have done), a lady suddenly notices them and says loudly and  with clear irritation, “O, look, shutterbugs!” Garry looks at her, answering “Yeah, and what are you, DDT?….”

Garry Winogrand had his own “subtle” way of showing his disinterest in questions about rules in photography or how-to kind of questions. He once said: there is actually ONE rule in photography, now I come to think of it …. NEVER  DROP YOUR CAMERA ….

photographer 2

By | photography, street photography

I read an article by somebody who followed classes by Garry Winogrand in 1975. He was asked on one occasion by Garry if he aspired to be a photographer himself. When the man said yes, Garry warned him that “few photographers make any real money in the business, but even if you are broke, it’s worth it.” Certainly in Garry Winogrand’s case it was worth it. He left us an incredible body of work, from which several books have been made, and the images keep inspiring a great number of photographers today.

“Class Time with Garry Winogrand” by O.C.Garza (to be found on the internet)

how to find a subject

By | photography, street photography

How do you find your subjects? The question arises when people are really interested in photography, but cannot put themselves in the role of a photographer, especially not a street photographer. When I think about it, I don’t often go look for subjects myself. I go out and come across them sooner or later, if not today maybe another time. Other photographers may do so too. Obviously my all-time favorite Garry Winogrand made good use of what he called the omnivorous nature of the camera, pointing it at every interesting situation involving people, on a daily basis. He started with sports photography, stage photography, he photographed both the politicians of the day and his own family (it is said that he took a picture of his children every day he put them on the school bus, almost a ritual); he photographed festivities, parades, the zoo that he took his children to, and above all, street life: happy, lonely, indifferent passers-by, women, other women and more women, a life-long fascination. Walking the endless pavements downtown, as well as countless suburban streets, carparks, malls, airports, boardwalks, you name it… People blown like bits of paper in the wind through the inhospitable streets of life. People lost in thoughts, in love or phantasies, in pain, looking for meaning. He one of them… You ask me how to find a subject ? If you go out, it stares you right in the eye.

Bryn Campbell on the work of Garry Winogrand

By | photography, street photography

“…. most significant photographer of his generation, as his much-respected admirers claim. [….]  He revels in the camera’s unique ability to collect facts. His range is considerable and occasionally his talent is seamed with genius. There is no other way to describe instinctive reactions of such acute visual intelligence and wit.”

© Bryn Campbell in his Introduction to World Photography (Ziff-Davis Books, New York 1981)

“snapshot aesthetic” and the social landscape

By | photography, street photography

“Interestingly enough, the snapshot’s significance in modifying our attitude toward picture content and structure has been quite remarkable. [….]  [It] has contributed greatly to the visual vocabulary of all graphic media since before the turn of the century [e.i. before 1900, TS].

Friedlander on one rare occasion simply stated: “I’m interested in people and people things”. Winogrand in an interview with Mary Orovan in U.S.Camera suggested “For me the true business of photography is to capture a bit of reality (whatever that is) on film….   if, later, the reality means something to someone else, so much the better.”

I do not find it hard to believe that photographers who have been concerned with the question of the authentic relevance of events and objects should consciously or unconsciously adopt one of the most authentic picture forms photography has produced. The directness of their commentary of “people and people things” is not an attempt to define but to clarify the meaning of the human condition.”

© Nathan Lyons: “Toward A Social Landscape” (George Eastman House of Photography, Rochester, New York 1966)

love and desire

By | photography, street photography

When William A. Ewing, the author of the the photobook “Love and Desire” (Chronicle Books / Thames and Hudson 1999, and a number of editions in various languages) asked me if he could use one of my house parties pictures, he wanted to know, did I perhaps have more photographs that could be grouped under this heading. O, sure, was my instantaneous reaction. Come to think of it, in fact most of my photography is about love and desire; especially when you think of it in the widest sense, apart from the purely physical or erotic connotations. Photography may well be seen as an act of love and desire; the love of life itself in all of its manifestations and sudden beauty, the desire to experience and partake, to observe and understand, to capture and share and maybe even own some of it.

This is what I also realized when I recently looked once again at some books by Garry Winogrand. To me he remains the greatest observer of life’s miracles at street level, but who elevated photography far above the business of making a buck or making an impression. His maniacal search for images of life going on all around him (he left a third of a million pictures at the time of his death) could only be stopped by his untimely passing away, and even his closest friends could only guess what he was striving for in the images that he had taken during his latest years, once they looked in bewilderment at the proofed and printed results from the bagloads of undeveloped films they found at his house. If you could call him an addict, he wasn’t addicted to photography, but to experiencing and getting to grips with life where he discovered it: on the very streets of his own life.

real greatness is in honesty

By | photography

When Winogrand seems a little blunt in his verbal statements and his answers during interviews it appears to me that this is a way of not showing his very sensitive nature. This sensitivity is clear from countless subtle hints in the visual content of his imagery and its psychological depth and implications. The clarity with which he shows us certain painful scenes isn’t cruelty, but respectful compassion, not inhibited by false shame and never shunning confrontation with what might shock us. Such is honesty – never mind the repercussions of the would-be preachers of morality who don’t even dare look at real life. Garry was a brave and passionate observer who doesn’t only show the triumphs of man, but also gives us a glimpse of human despair, failure and seediness. His endless quest for the facts (in his words “what things look like”) of his and our lives is as heroic as that of all the great artists of all times and places. It’s time people learned to see….