Garry Winogrand was an American street photographer, known for his portrayal of U.S. life and its social issues, in the mid-20th century. Photography curator, historian, and critic John Szarkowski
called Winogrand the central photographer of his generation. Winogrand was influenced by Walker Evans
and Robert Frank
and their respective publications American Photographs
and The Americans
. Henri Cartier-Bresson
was another influence although stylistically different.
Winogrand worked as a freelance photojournalist and advertising photographer in the 1950s and 1960s. Between 1952 and 1954 he freelanced with the PIX Publishing agency in Manhattan on an introduction from Ed Feingersh
, and from 1954 at Brackman Associates.
Winogrand's beach scene of a man playfully lifting a woman above the waves appeared in the 1955 The Family of Man
exhibition at the Museum of Modern Art
in New York which then toured the world to be seen by 9 million visitors. His first solo show was held at Image Gallery in New York in 1959. His first notable exhibition was in Five Unrelated Photographers
in 1963, also at MoMA
in New York, along with Minor White
, George Krause
, Jerome Liebling
, and Ken Heyman
Winogrand was known for his portrayal of American life in the early 1960s. Many of his photographs depict the social issues of his time and in the role of media in shaping attitudes. He roamed the streets of New York with his 35mm Leica camera rapidly taking photographs using a prefocused wide angle lens. His pictures frequently appeared as if they were driven by the energy of the events he was witnessing. Winogrand's photographs of the Bronx Zoo and the Coney Island Aquarium made up his first book The Animals
(1969), a collection of pictures that observes the connections between humans and animals.
He received three Guggenheim Fellowships
to work on personal projects, a fellowship from the National Endowment for the Arts, and published four books during his lifetime. He was one of three photographers featured in the influential New Documents exhibition at Museum of Modern Art
in New York in 1967 and had solo exhibitions there in 1969, 1977, and 1988. He supported himself by working as a freelance photojournalist and advertising photographer in the 1950s and 1960s, and taught photography in the 1970s. His photographs featured in photography magazines including Popular Photography, Eros, Contemporary Photographer, and Photography Annual.
Critic Sean O'Hagan wrote in 2014 that in "the 1960s and 70s, he defined street photography as an attitude as well as a style – and it has laboured in his shadow ever since, so definitive are his photographs of New York"
; and in 2010 that though he photographed elsewhere, "Winogrand was essentially a New York photographer: frenetic, in-your-face, arty despite himself."
Phil Coomes, writing for BBC News in 2013, said "For those of us interested in street photography there are a few names that stand out and one of those is Garry Winogrand, whose pictures of New York in the 1960s are a photographic lesson in every frame."
In his lifetime Winogrand published four monographs: The Animals
(1969), Women are Beautiful
(1975), Public Relations
(1977) and Stock Photographs: The Fort Worth Fat Stock Show and Rodeo
(1980). At the time of his death, his late work remained undeveloped, with about 2,500 rolls of undeveloped film, 6,500 rolls of developed but not proofed exposures, and about 3,000 rolls only realized as far as contact sheets being made.
Photography is not about the thing photographed. It is about how that thing looks photographed.
-- Garry Winogrand
A native New Yorker, Garry Winogrand became known for his street photography blending documentary and photojournalist styles and freezing his subjects in spontaneous and bizarre moments. Winogrand typically used a wide-angle lens mounted on a Leica 35mm camera and photographed prolifically, leaving 2,500 rolls of shot but undeveloped film and 300,000 unedited images upon his death. The tilted horizon and feeling of chaos in his images belie his careful compositions concerned with capturing surface detail and energy. Winogrand believed that the act of framing and photographing something transformed it. His images are often confrontational and take moments out of context, positioning Winogrand as an outside observer of human gestures and actions.
Among Winogrand’s favorite subjects were women, and he described himself as being “compulsively interested in women”
and having “compulsively photographed women.”
A large part of Winogrand’s images in the collection of the MoCP
form part of the Women are Beautiful
portfolio (1981), which was initially published as a monograph in 1975. For the monograph, John Szarkowski
, curator of photography at the Museum of Modern Art
in New York at the time, selected eighty-five images featuring women from hundreds of photographs by Winogrand.
The resulting book offers a random collection of women caught on the street, in parks, getting into cars, at parties, marching in parades, skinny-dipping in ponds, etc. The images capture not only Winogrand’s attraction to the women he photographed, but also the styles, activities, gestures, and energies pertaining to gender in the 1960s and 1970s, an era of transition during second-wave feminism and the sexual revolution. In the monograph and in the portfolio, Winogrand wrote: “Whenever I’ve seen an attractive woman, I’ve done my best to photograph her. I don’t know if all the women in the photographs are beautiful, but I do know that the women are beautiful in the photographs.”
Source: Museum of Contemporary Photography