* “Master Profiles” is a series profiling all the great photographers of uncontrolled life. Unlike the rest of the blog, I’m doing these in a straight profile format to make it easy for quick access to facts, quotes and knowledge on all the masters. I’ll also group them together here every time I add a new one.
Garry Winogrand (1928-1984)
Photographer from the Bronx, New York who is best known for his up close look at Social issues and American life during the mid-20th century.
Born: January 14, 1928 in New York City, NY
Winogrand grew up in a then Jewish working-class area of the Bronx, New York, where his father was a leather worker and his mother made neckties. After high school, he enlisted in the US Air Force and returned to New York in 1947 to study painting at City College of New York and Columbia University.
Painting soon crossed over to an interest in photography and photojournalism, which he also studied in college.
Garry first worked as an advertising photographer and freelance photojournalist in the 1950’s and 1960’s. This led to a personal interest in photographing the streets of New York City. This was at the same time as contemporaries Diane Arbus, Lee Friedlander and Joel Meyerowitz were also photographing these streets.
At times, he could be found shooting the streets side by side with Joel Meyerowitz.
In 1964 Winogrand was awarded his first of three Guggenheim Fellowships to travel “for photographic studies of American life.”
In 1969, Winogrand’s photographs of the Bronx Zoo and the Coney Island Aquarium made up his first book The Animals, a collection of pictures that observes the connections between humans and animals.
Winogrand was most famous for his unique and unruly capturing of social issues in America. He liked to get up close to his candid subjects with a wide-angle and had an unmatched obsessive to shooting on the street every day, all day.
Unfortunately, in 1984, Winogrand was diagnosed with gallbladder cancer and went to the Gerson Clinic in Tijuana to seek an alternative cure, but passed away only a month later at the age of 56.
Famous photography curator, historian and critic John Szarkowski called Winogrand the central photographer of his generation, while critic Seah O’Hagan said “In the 1960’s and 70’s, he defined Street Photography as an attitude as well as a style…so definitive are his photographs of New York.”
Winogrand never liked being referred to as a Street Photographer, though, as he found no real meaning to the term. He much preferred to just be called a photographer and leave it at that. When asked about it, Garry once said “When I’m photographing I see life. That’s what I deal with.”
- Shot non-stop, every day, all day
- Got close to his subjects, wide-angle, not invisible
- Form and content
- Less interested in photography, and more interested about living and capturing life
- Don’t over think, just react
- Social issues
Leica M4 with 28mm lens
Winogrand was always dedicated to Leicas. He didn’t like SLRs because he felt they manipulate you into doing things and this was then often reflected in the photos.
In the early 1960’s he experimented with 21, 28 and 35 mm lenses. He wanted a lens that took in his whole angle of attention, which he felt the 21mm was the closest too, but it was just too limiting with its distortion. So the 28mm became his lens of choice for most of his career.
When it came to film, he preferred Tri-X film pushed to 1200 ASA. He liked to shoot at 1/1000th of a second as much as possible so they weren’t blurry.
Joel Meyerwitz, John Szarkowski
“Sometimes photographers mistake emotion for what makes a great street photograph.”
“Every photograph is a battle of form versus content”
“Great photography is always on the edge of failure.”
“Photos have no narrative content. They only describe light on surface.”
“I photograph to see what the world looks like in photographs.”
“There is no special way a photograph should look.”
“Photographers mistake the emotion they feel while taking the photo as a judgment that the photograph is good”
Winogrand would deliberately wait a year or two before developing his film so he would have little to no memory of taking the photo. He felt this took out any emotional attachment and let him view his photos with a fresh, critical eye. He actually shot so much film that he left behind 2,500 undeveloped rolls of film at his death. Michael David Murphy called Winogrand “the first digital photographer.”
For many, Winogrand has had as much or more influence on Street Photography than anybody else. So tell me what you think about Winogrand in the comments below! Do you have any favorite shots? Does his work impact you as much as others?