Anne Darling Photography

Garry Winogrand (1928-1984)

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

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.






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