Garry Winogrand was a street photographer and a very prolific one at that. Reputedly,
he left behind 300,000 unedited images and more than 2,500 undeveloped rolles of film on
his death. But in spite of his obsession with picture taking, it's interesting to note that he didn't
actually have any agenda other than seeing "what something looks like as a photograph". He
said "I don't have anything to say in any picture... I have no preconceptions".
So to understand what Winogrand was thinking we can't rely on his words but have to
look directly at his images. Below is a video with a commentary on one of Winogrand's photographs entitled "Los Angeles"
which he made in 1969. It is a great example of how street photography can reveal the subtleties of
human nature. Although the video is very short (1.54 mins) it is well executed and is best viewed full screen.
if you've just watched the above video you will begin to realise why Winogrand was renowned
for his boldness when out shooting. It's said he was without fear and used to stand right in
front of his subject when photographing them. He was always polite and would smile at them
or make a gesture of thanks after he had made the shot. Surprisingly, this ruse seemed to
work and no one ever got annoyed with him.
Maybe this technique will work for you too if you are out taking street shots. Certainly it is
better to engage with your subject than to just try to grab a shot without permission. The resulting
photos should be better too
Garry Winogrand used available light (as did Cartier-Bresson
and many other street photographers) and most of his images were shot in black and white which
was also traditional. However, Winogrand had a strong liking for Kodachrome slide film and would
often shoot the same subject in colour as well. The films were not developed straight away
because he liked to leave a gap in time between taking a shot and seeing the photograph in order
to have lost somewhat the memory of the original event.
This could be as long as one or two years. At other times he would develop the film
straight away if he was particularly happy with a particular image or had especially good memories
of the event. But more often he let the film 'age' in order to be more objective when
he finally got to see the pictures for real.
Garry Winogrand equipped his camera with a wide-angle lens from 1960 onwards and turned his
powers of observation on the animal kingdom when he frequented
the zoo at Central Park in New York over a period of seven years in order to produce the
extraordinary book entitled The Animals
A lion sticks its tongue out, an orangutan pees
into another's mouth, seals watch lovers kiss, and a hippo gives a huge yawn, all natural
occurences in the zoo world but Winogrand's photos have a surreal quality, bordering on the
grotesque, depending on your viewpoint but always with strong compositions, as you would expect from
such a master, and actually very humorous.