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  • April 24, 2014

A Visit to Garry Winogrand’s Retrospective

Garry Winogrand’s 25-year retrospective, currently on display at the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C., includes Winogrand’s iconic images of everyday Americans—New Yorkers out on the street, lone figures in busy airports, and eerie scenes of western suburbia. But about one-third of the show comes from Winogrand’s vast stockpile of unpublished work. Winogrand, who died suddenly at age 56, left behind 2,500 rolls of film that had never been developed and 6,500 rolls of film that had been developed but never made into contact sheets. At 36 frames per roll, that’s well over a quarter of a million images that Winogrand made but never looked at.

Picture of a child running out of a dark garage with mountains in the background.
All images by Garry Winogrand
Albuquerque, New Mexico, 1958 [1957?],
The Museum of Modern Art, New York, Purchase
All images © The Estate of Garry Winogrand,
courtesy Fraenkel Gallery, San Francisco
Picture of a park bench full of people chatting.
Garry Winogrand, New York World’s Fair, 1964, San Francisco Museum of Modern Art,
Gift of Dr. L.F. Peede, Jr.

Winogrand was a voracious shooter, always more interested in taking pictures than in editing them. Sometimes he waited to view the images intentionally, so that he could see them more objectively,

 

“If I was in a good mood when I was shooting one day, then developed the film right away, I might choose a picture because I remember how good I felt when I took it. You make better choices if you approach your contact sheets cold, separating the editing from the picture taking as much as possible.”

 

Picture of a man with tape on his nose driving a convertible car. A woman is sitting in the passenger's seat.
Los Angeles, 1964
San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, Gift of Jeffrey Fraenkel
A picture of a man on the street pointing at the camera.
New York, c. 1969
Posthumous print made from original negative on the occasion of the Garry Winogrand exhibition organized by the National Gallery of Art and the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, courtesy Center for Creative Photography,
The University of Arizona

If separating the shoot from the edit makes for a better selection of pictures, putting together a retrospective decades after the unprocessed rolls were shot should make for a spectacular exhibit.

Does it?

Nearly.

In one image that was printed posthumously, a woman’s lifeless body lies in a Los Angeles street while a Porsche glides by. As he does in his best work, Winogrand poses questions without positing any answers. But not all of the images printed posthumously are so compelling. I found myself skimming past many of the photographs that were developed and printed after Winogrand’s death and wishing the curators had cut the show down by a few dozen prints. Still, I got so sucked into the 200 or so remaining images—vivid, visceral portrayals of America teetering between tremendous success and terrible collapse—that I’m already planning my second visit to the show.

Picture of a car driving away and a woman lying in the middle of the street.
Los Angeles, 1980-1983
Posthumous print made from original negative on the occasion of the Garry Winogrand exhibition organized by the National Gallery of Art and the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, courtesy Center for Creative Photography,
The University of Arizona
Picture of a woman crossing a city street on a windy day.
Garry Winogrand, Los Angeles, 1980-1983,
The Garry Winogrand Archive, Center for Creative Photography, The University of Arizona

The Garry Winogrand exhibit was curated by Leo Rubinfien and Sarah Greenough. It was organized by the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C., and the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art. The retrospective is on display now through June 8 at the National Gallery of Art. On June 27, the exhibit will open at The Metropolitan Museum of Art and run through September. It was previously shown at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art.

There are 11 Comments. Add Yours.

  1. 志明 杨
    May 1, 2014

    哦,伟大的有着持久生命力的摄影师总是抄小路找到他要寻找的东西,感谢他丰富了我们的眼界所看不见的那一切……也感谢你,珍妮。

  2. Matt Sullivan
    April 25, 2014

    Thanks for the great post. I will definitely get to the National Gallery to see this one. Thanks, Matt

  3. s nusair
    April 25, 2014

    Very interesting A lot of these photos will be considered today as intrusion on privacy & violation of rights

    • Jenny Trucano Muller
      April 25, 2014

      Samir, your comment is interesting to me– I had the same thought until I did some more reading up on Winogrand. Here’s a snippet from the Washington Post on how Winogrand was able to make such intimate pictures with the consent of his subjects:

      Photographer and editor Mason Resnick recalls taking a workshop with Winogrand in 1976, ten years before the photographer died, and marveling at how Winogrand worked. He shot prolifically, Resnick recalled, often shooting an entire roll of film in the space of only one block, never breaking stride. And he was fearless, often standing in front of people to make their picture, yet always smiling or nodding at them, making contact, however brief, with his subjects – who amazingly, never seemed annoyed.
      http://wapo.st/1lcajM9

  4. Mary
    April 24, 2014

    I remember a great Winogrand exhibit at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art in the late 80s. One of the best I’ve seen of his work. What a great photographer. Still one of my favorites that I show to my high school photo students.

    • Jenny Trucano Muller
      April 24, 2014

      Mary, I would have loved to have seen the LACMA exhibit. Thanks for writing.

  5. mohammad bashirul alam
    April 24, 2014

    Historical picture.

  6. Karen Muller
    April 24, 2014

    Jenny, I enjoyed this!

    • Jenny Trucano Muller
      April 24, 2014

      Karen, so glad! Maybe you can come see the exhibit for yourself in DC.

  7. Alice Gabriner
    April 24, 2014

    As a photo editor at National Geographic, I would say that the biggest mistake photographers make is that they don’t separate the experience taking the picture from what is actually conveyed when viewing the picture. So, i very much appreciate this quote:
    “If I was in a good mood when I was shooting one day, then developed the film right away, I might choose a picture because I remember how good I felt when I took it. You make better choices if you approach your contact sheets cold, separating the editing from the picture taking as much as possible.”
    Thank you, Jenny

    • Jenny Trucano Muller
      April 24, 2014

      Alice, thanks for the thoughtful response.

      If you haven’t been, the exhibit is worth a visit. There are some really interesting video interviews with Winogrand. Quite a character.

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