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Monday, 22 April 2019

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Winogrand is, for me, the most inspiring and deeply moving of all photographers. So maybe it is from this perspective that I say that "All Things Are Photographable" was a piddling, mediocre documentary. The only insightful bits came from Gary himself, but you can find most of that material in full on YouTube.

I also found it astounding how incredibly dense both Matt Stuart and Geoff Dyer came across, especially in their assessment of The Animals. Their appearance felt like we had switched reels to a mockumentary.

Dyer's book on Winogrand may be the worst thing ever published on him, and also likely the worst misreading of a photographer ever printed. They were both guilty of the backhanded compliment that Szarkowski was famous for giving Winogrand. Mike you do it a bit here by calling him Yoda. [You're right...so I changed that. --Mike] There is always a dig given along with the praise. It's as if someone this coarse (and low class) couldn't possibly be an artist. But of course that's what makes him one. As Nicholas Taleb states regarding stereotypical appearances within professions, it is the one who doesn't fit the stereotype that is the stronger candidate because, "the one who doesn’t look the part, conditional of having made a (sort of) successful career in his profession, had to have much to overcome in terms of perception." This is certainly the case for Winogrand.

Lastly, one more piece of criticism on Geoff Dyer who, looking the part of the stately but hipster-ish art critic, said that it was ironic that Winogrand, who wanted to see what something looked like photographed, never looked at his later pictures. This is a facile observation. Given that he was ill, Gary obviously decided that he wanted to spend the time he had left photographing, rather than printing and editing, which was probably the wise choice (Roma's observation that Gary often photographed with his young daughter is maybe the best thing in the entire doc). That something this obvious is so difficult for critics like Dyer to see is extremely telling. Like his wrongheaded book on Winogrand, it shows an underlying self-interest and careerism which is typified by his glib wit and vampiric deconstruction (clearly, deep down Dyer wishes he were Gary).

Compare this to the appearances of Gary's first wife Adrienne Lubeau, Tod Papageorge, and Thomas Roma who, in their remembrance of Gary, were all brought to tears.

Hi Mike,
Thanks for the article! There are plenty of great videos on Gary Winogrand on YouTube, one of them being probably this very interesting chat with students at Rice University.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wP6lP3UaP24
The whole class is great to watch and I never heard such a brutal answer to a question asked in public about a fellow photographer before. Maybe his view on Bruce Davidson was public knowledge at the time but it is quite a shocker nowadays. His view makes a point though. It is 21'43" into the class.
N.

You can also watch it, and plenty of other PBS shows, by putting the PBS app on your smart TV, video streamer, tablet, or phone.

Thanks for the link on the Winogrand video. I will watch it although I have never been able to comprehend the adoration his fans show on his work. I recall more than a few dreamy eyed commenters waxing about how prolific he was, making special note to point out that when he died he left thousands of rolls of film undeveloped that other people were still going through. I wanted to ask (but didn't) "Yeah, but what do you think about his photographs?".

I am with you on Winogrand. I admire his work but am not moved by it nearly as much as Friedlander’s. Of course Friedlander is now and always will be my photographic hero.

"US Americans can't watch the BBC's "The Genius of Photography" because it's not available here and even the DVDs are Europe-only)."

There is a way around this and it is simple. View the program using your computer's DVD player. Of course these days they don't put a dvd player in the computer. I purchased a USB DVD only player, no Blueray, for $80 on Amazon. Then I had to purchase the software from Microsoft ($15) in order to play the videos.

I'm not crazy. I can now view videos on my high resolution monitor (27in) and it all looks great.

Although I would certainly not discount Winogrand's skill as a photographer, one should also bear in mind that he was a prolific shooter -- so much so that when he died he left behind 2,500 rolls of undeveloped film. This leads me to think that his skill was at least as much in editing his work as deciding what to shoot. To put it bluntly, the more frames you shoot in the Winogrand style, the more luck you'll have finding those perfectly serendipitous compositions of gesture, light, color, and shadow.

I used to think Winogrand rather coy and flippant at times when interviewed, in fact, he was being as direct, honest and insightful as possible.

You won't "probably fail" at mimicking him, you most definitely will- sites like Flickr are littered with those who have. Balancing nuance and the obvious is always harder than it seems.

I never liked what I saw of examples of his work. Probably too complicated for my visual comprehension.
This video completely changed my opinion. Much GOOD stuff, but he definitely needed a good printer and even more a ruthless editor.

Thank you Mike. I just spent 1hr 23min 11sec of yard cleaning time, watching the Winogrand video. I see that the BBC Genius of Photography series, is six, one hour long segments. The yard hasn't been touched since October, so whats another day?
Hint. A savvy web voyeur, knows to use a VPN set to the country of origin.

I noticed that Matthew Weiner (Writer, Creator of Mad Men) was interviewed for this documentary and that Dan Weiner was mentioned as a mentor to Winogrand. I’ve recently begun watching Mad Men for the first time and there is a nice scene in the season 1 finale where the beauty and magic of photography is used in a lovely way.

The lead character of the show (Don Draper) is making an advertising pitch to a couple of Kodak execs who are looking to promote a new product that they call The Wheel. Draper dims the lights and presents a slide show featuring his own family as he pitches the new product, not as a wheel…but as a carousel. A Carousel that lets us travel the way a child travels…around and around and back home again.

I didn't know Winogrand's personality firsthand, but I swore I heard his Bronx-graveled voice, imagined his hands and watch-wearing wrist reaching out of the ground to cut my computer's volume when "Ohh, the times they are a channnge-inggg..." started jingle-jangling. Though Winograd's words on the Guggenheim application (read just before that annoying sound edit) don't quite ring out, they do speak loudly enough. Even more, they don't line up *at all* with that song's sentiment. Yuck.

Interesting offhand recording of his remarks about color photography, at around 35 minutes in: "When it becomes as easy as black-and-white I'll, well, that's my problem [with it]." At the time, color was too time-consuming for his process. "The way I work... I got piles of [B&W] workprints there [in his house], thousands! I expose a lot of paper!"

@Gordon Lewis said "Although I would certainly not discount Winogrand's skill as a photographer, one should also bear in mind that he was a prolific shooter -- so much so that when he died he left behind 2,500 rolls of undeveloped film. This leads me to think that his skill was at least as much in editing his work as deciding what to shoot. To put it bluntly, the more frames you shoot in the Winogrand style, the more luck you'll have finding those perfectly serendipitous compositions of gesture, light, color, and shadow."

I agree with Gordon completely and have long wondered if you gave almost anyone with a semblance of photographic knowledge a camera and they spent a number of years shooting a million frames while walking the streets of LA, or any place with a lot of people, even if they only had a "keeper" rate of 1/10,000 they would come up with 100 great photographs. I liked this film because, besides Garry's obvious OCD approach to shooting, it displays his intellect and wit which were substantial.

I'm more a fan of Winogrand's thoughts on and attitude toward photography than of his photos, but I did enjoy the Winogrand 1964 exhibit at the International Center of Photography in late 2002. Saw it twice in fact!

It’s my understanding that it was John Szarkowski who called Winogrand the “central photographer of his generation.” If not, he said something to the same effect, adding a bit more cred to Garry’s claim to the title.

Random venting: You mention Geoff Dyer. I have his book “The Street Philosophy Of Garry Winogrand.” One of the central tenets of that philosophy is that a still picture has no narrative content. You don’t know what happened just before or after the shutter fired. Not only does Dyer ignore this key element of Winogrand’s philosophy, but he spends a large potion of the book spinning imaginary narratives around the pictures. Doesn’t sit right with me.

As you mention, Winogrand is a great talker. Some trash, some genius, all entertaining. There are lots of clips on YouTube of him giving an interview here, teaching class there. Worth looking for.

My tone probably gives away my feelings: I’m a big fan. I’d even go past Szarkowski to say that Winogrand was the most exciting photographer of any generation. Jackson Pollack is the only artist I know that gives me more of a visceral thrill.

Gary Winogrand has a line attributed to him about why he photographs which I quote more often than any other about photography.

I don’t have face blindness as such, but I struggle to recall faces, even family, unless I have seen, usually taken, a photo of them (a different kind of photographic memory). And that’s kind of symptomatic of all photography for me, including my predominantly people-absent photos. The answer I mull and which is attributed to Gary Winogrand: “I photograph to see what the world looks like photographed”. But, for me, it’s a word too long, and not in a profound sense but quite pragmatic: I photograph to see what the world looks like**.

*like many online quotes this has several variances, and I don’t have complete faith in its attribution

**As a participant in a recent Photovoice study researching quality of life in autistic adults, I used this quote and my amendment once again. Photography is one of my “special interests”, and I wonder at its confluence with my sensory needs, letting me see and show how others and I perceive the world

You also missed the VII print sale, April 11-21
http://viiphoto.com/vii-iconic-prints/ Boohoo, I could have purchased an Alexandra Boulat 8x10 printed on Fuji Chrystal Archive for $100.00

VII was founded in 2001 by seven, digital only, photographers in 2001. They shot with Canon cameras. James Nachtwey was one of the founders.

Thanks for the tip. I never got the fuss over Winogrand and so never delved further. But this shows some extraordinary work I had never seen before. I get it now.

BTW, The Genius of Photography can we seen in the US here:
https://archive.org/details/tGoPhoto

David Douglas Duncan's photos of the 1968 conventions are in a wonderful book Self-Portrait: USA . I have a copy but there are some interesting signed first editions available on ebay right now.

Matthew Weiner is Dan Weiner's son?

That makes so much sense now.

Winogrand always makes me think of Davis, Miles Davis . . . shaken not stirred.

Mike I'm half way through watching and I want to thank you for the video link. From the limited time I have had to view Winogrand's work in the past it is a pleasure to see more of his images.

I am a sometimes wannabe street photographer and to me much of his stuff is pure inspiration. If one has not tried shooting on the street then it is hard to understand how difficult it is to get the shots that get noticed. Ain't easy.

I was hoping for at least some mention, if not an interview, with Joel Myerowitz, as he and Winogrand were close for a good while and often went shooting together on the streets of Manhattan (can you imagine what that was like?).

Instead we get interviews with some popular modern street photographers (and Michael Ernest Sweet for some reason?)...I was hoping for better. I'd actually pay to watch a reenactment of Winogrand physically shoving Papageorge out of the way so he could take his famous shot of the couple with the monkeys.

To watch American Masters, Frontline, and other PBS programs overseas, a VPN (Virtual Private Network) can be used. Some of these are free, although you gotta read the fine print.

Also, the New York Times (mentioned recently) allows only a few free articles per month, but if you use Mozilla Firefox and open a private window, you can read as many articles as you want for free. Worth every penny.

You want to watch it and don't live in the USA? Get a VPN. You're then able to appear to be anywhere and your traffic from your computer to their servers is encrypted (you can use a VPN with your cell phone in public places and no one can snoop).

I've used ExpressVPN for over a year now and have to say it's been just fine. There are many suppliers out there from which to choose.

I like Winogrand's work very much, but, with regard to the New York school of street photography, I am more partial to Joel Meyerowitz. I also enjoyed the documentary, but Meyerowitz was a curious omission as he frequently describes his early years on the streets of New York as including Winogrand and Tod Papageorge. It seems to me that he could have spoken very well to how Winogrand worked. Matt Stuart is very talented, and I appreciated his insights as a contemporary street photographer, but he was ten years old when Winogrand died. So his insights into the personal Winogrand are second-hand.

I was just looking at some Winogrand photos online and came across this one - showing him on the scene of one of his most famous photographs. "New York, 1967" is credited to Tod Papageorge.

https://journals.openedition.org/transatlantica/docannexe/image/7084/img-3.jpg

Fortunately I remembered (well, actually my wife remembered to remind me) to record this. I've not yet watched it but expect (and am eager) to do so shortly, as I’m a bit out of action for a day or two.

I cannot claim that Garry Winogrand is my “favorite” photographer as I have no such icon. I can, however, say that he is certainly among my favorite photographers and that I’ve gathered (nearly) all his primary books of works. (They’re basically all the same, just more or less topically sorted.) “Winogrand 1964” is a very good book of Garry’s work that I’m delighted to own. But my personal favorite is unquestionably The Man in the Crowd: The Uneasy Streets of Garry Winogrand published by Jeffrey Fraenkel for a 1999 exhibition at his gallery.

Some years ago the museum here hosted a large exhibit that included quite a bit of Winogrand’s work, most especially an entire wall of “Women are Beautiful” prints. During some of the show’s social festivities I was able to become acquainted with several people who were quite close with Garry. Their recollections certainly cemented my existing impression that he was, first and foremost, a workman-like photographer. “Art” was a label he was never really comfortable with.

So why is Garry Winogrand among my favorite photographers? Because he taught me an extremely essential lesson: use the whole damn frame. Look at one of his published street images, one that may appear carelessly shot. It's anything but careless, isn't it? Everything in that frame, cover to corner, probably tells you something about the subject and context. Hands, feet, glances from bypassers, objects in windows. The man had an extraordinary ability to collect rich meaning in a rectangle in just a blink of an eye, even before he pressed the shutter. His images usually weren’t pretty but they sure as hell were usually loaded with exactly what he wanted you to have.

And that’s why Garry Winogrand is among my favorites. I try to practice his content awareness in my own work, whether candid street or more studied. That talent/skill for packing a frame, in my opinion, is what really separates the good photographer from the vast majority of happy snappers.

That’s what Garry Winogrand taught me.

Winogrand street techniques

http://mentalfloss.com/article/18164/taking-pictures-strangers-part-ii-garry-winogrand

I am halfway through the documentary and still gathering my thoughts in Winogrand, the film and the genre, but I have really enjoyed this post and all of the comments that have been posted. It's really great to see the thoughtful engagement of so many folks. Another GEM from TOP - thanks Mike.

Finally finished the two night project of watching the Winogrand film. What I found myself most intrigued by was the arc of life as a photographer. How his path as a photographer was impacted by marriages, divorces, children, health, sickness and then an untimely death that left so much unfinished - unprocessed, uncontacted, unprinted, unedited.

We have discussed the growing burden and importance of editing and redacting one's work. This film, and the story of Winogrand, really exemplifies the importance of that process. He was BIG enough that, while his later work might not be edited and presented as he might have wished, it at least has seen an audience. Most of us don't have that luxury.

For the critics in the comments that sort of lessen his work by making the claim that "if any decent photographer went out and shot that often, with that volume, they are bound to get some great stuff." Well, I don't necessarily disagree, BUT having the love, will and tenacity to get out there and shoot on a daily basis IS part of the skill. It's very easy for folks to say, "well, if I shot that much on those streets, I'd have some great images too!" That actually may be true. But that is a huge IF. To shoot so consistently even today, with the ease of digital capture, is very difficult. To do it in that era was much more laborious, time-consuming and expensive.

He is not my favorite photographer. Not even my favorite of that era of NY street photographers. But I love his total absorption in the process. I love that he just needed it even if he didn't really know why.

I loved the video sequences with Jay Maisel and Garry conversing. Haven't spent some time with Jay in NY at his Bank a few years back, I really would have loved if he were one of the people featured in the interviews.

I love this genre of photography and TOP. I'm eager to pursue some of the links provided by the commenters.

Following the documentary, I watched a good portion of the Winogrand talk at Rice. I am amazed at how differently the photographer himself describes his images compared to the curators and gallerists!

I often find that eloquent waxing of critics to be over the top. And in this genre it seems especially so. The reality with this type of photography is that you're out there shooting lots of images of scenes that seem photographable, as Winogrand would say. Sometimes you know you are on a great scene because of the light, the compositional opportunities, the subjects, etc. And most often when you find those moments you get some good images.

But there is also a lot of serendipity in this genre. Many of the great images were the result of some other special thing that just happened to occur in that frame while the shutter was open. And there is no way that the photographer could have known or planned for it. But when an otherwise good photograph then gets that surprise, it can become great. It is still on the photograph to "see" this in his or her images and recognize it as something special. This is where shooting volume increases your odds of serendipity.

To listen to some of the "critic speech" about all of the deep meanings and thoughts that went into a particular image is a bit nauseating. He took the picture because he wanted to see what that would look like as a picture!

What we all need is to find the right person to wax poetic about our images! I would love to see some footage of Winogrand sitting next to Szarkowski or any other critic, reading so much into a given image. I though Winogrand was getting into this a bit at Rice when speaking about the image being very specific, to him, while others read ambiguity.

This might be better discussed over tea with a few interested TOP readers!

[I don't find it "nauseating" at all. The viewer has a perfect right to his or her own interpretation of a picture. That's half the communication equation, what the viewer brings to it and gets from it. The critic is just a viewer who is more informed than average. And the critic might be more right than the photographer--the photographer doesn't get the last word on what he/she is doing, and many times might not even understand (or understand only superficially) the meanings, implications, and significances of his or her own photograph. --Mike]

Personally, I find the thought that 'the photographer doesn't get the last word on what he/she is doing, and many times might not even understand (or understand only superficially) the meanings, implications, and significances of his or her own photograph' rather disturbing. Isn't that exactly the same as telling you that you don't understand your own writing, even though only you know why you wrote it in the first place? If others find personal significance in something, that's one thing. Saying the photographer might 'only superficially' understand his/her own work, when only he/she knows why they hit the shutter, is surely beyond the pale. A critic that believes that is surely only propping an unrequired or potentially thoroughly inaccurate translation. In this regard, years ago I watched a programme following a group of art students through a gallery, cutting back and forth to the artists whose work they were viewing. I paraphrase, but essentially: 'There is deep emotion in this; anger; frustration; see the thickness of the paint, the desperation of the brush strokes, the power...' Cut to artist: 'I made a mistake that took a lot of paint to cover'. If ever anything put paid to the pure solo translation of critics, it was this. The only true authority on any creative work is the author - any other is highly likely to be totally up the wrong tree, or up a tree when they don't need to be or shouldn't be.

Mike, I fully agree with the role of the viewer and the importance of those interpretations. In many cases those interpretations are what give an image wings. I guess what I’m reacting to is more of the viewer telling us as a matter of fact what the photographer was thinking or intending when making an image. Those are two very different things.

We can see just in this example critiques of the experts by people who had more immediate context with Winogrand - Pointing to cases where they are misinterpreting his intent.

Is it not enough that an image invokes certain emotions in a viewer? Does it matter if the photographer intended to tell the same story that the viewer sees? I think there is magic in what people see and feel when viewing an image. But I find it a bit offputting when someone is so confident that their interpretation was the expressed intent and thought process of the photographer.

This may simply be a matter of semantics? If the critique simply stated that this is how “I interpret the meaning and impact of his photo and why I believe it is so important.......” that would provide the distinction I am wanting. I may just be misinterpreting the voice of the critique? Maybe they purposely animate the photographer with their own thoughts for effect with the understanding that the reader knows that this is just what the critiquer thinks the photographer may have intended?

I've seen the video made at Rice before, and hardly think he comes out looking very much the good teacher or communicator; if anything, he looks very ill at ease and the head-clasping slouch makes it worse.

He doesn't really have much of anything to say, which is often the case with photographers, who snap better than they chat. Perhaps the true problem lies in the expectation that a photographer can have very much to say about photography which, after all, is an emotional expression. What can anyone say that's new to describe why they love something? How can anyone tell anyone else how to be a good photographer, lover or anything else? You simply have to have that built-in, there with your bricks, as it were. Discussing individual images is an adventure in the surreal; only if you have shot something to a brief can that be discussed from the narrow point of view of whether or not it achieved its purpose.

Events such as that one might be great if they come as a slide-show; I was at one by Sam Haskins, and it was rather nice being able to ask him some technical questions regarding his outdoor lighting. There is real value to such encounters, and to my memory, neither he nor anyone else was side-tracked into chat about brands!

Rob

Regarding David Comdico's contention that the reason Winogrand amassed a backlog of 300,000 images is that he had better things to do than be stuck in the darkroom after receiving his cancer diagnosis. Wrong. From the time he learned of his illness to the time he died was only about a couple of months. Not long enough to create a backlog that large.

Addendum: I finally got around to watching this film last night. Basically, I enjoyed it. While I am quite familiar with the Winogrand story (legend?) and with nearly all the still images shown, I was especially glad to see segments Garry’s films which I’d never seen. Like John Gillooly, I most enjoyed the taped conversations between Jay Maisel and Garry playing over the films.

But “basically”? Well, ya. As I am somewhat acquainted with a couple of the people interviewed in the film I don’t mean to offend anyone. But I could have watched the film on mute and have enjoyed it more. ‘Nuff said on that front.

No great insights to add about Winogrand or photographic philosophy, but I just wanted to say thank you for posting this as I enjoyed it tremendously. I own one of those huge Winogrand retrospective books which has probably never received its due, and I must rectify that as I swear I didn't recognise half the shots shown in this documentary. But my word, they were wonderful.

Did anybody else notice Lee Miller at 24:14? I believe the man wearing glasses in conversation with his back to the camera is her husband, British Surrealist painter Roland Penrose.

I took a screen capture if anyone is interested to take a look, but don't know how to post photos here.

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