"New York", gelatin-silver print, 1963. Photo courtesy Paul Kopeikin Gallery, Los Angeles, CA. Copyright, The Estate of Garry Winogrand
""New York", gelatin-silver print, 1963. Photo courtesy Fraenkel Gallery, San Francisco, CA. Copyright, The Estate of Garry Winogrand
by Jody Zellen
(Paul Kopeikin Gallery,West Hollywood)
Garry Winogrand photographed to see what things looked like photographed.
He first picked up a camera in the 1950's and didn't put it down until his
untimely death in 1984. During the 30 years he photographed, Winogrand created
numerous images, produced five books, and exhibited extensively throughout
the United States and abroad. He shot in the street, from the hip, up close
with a wide-angle lens, often tilting the camera. He was a prolific shooter
and his images capture what is known to photographers as the 'decisive moment.'
Winogrand's subject was America. He documented the city and the urban landscape, concentrating on its unusual people and capturing odd juxtapositions of animate and inanimate objects. Winogrand began photographing in New York, doing commercial work. He was inspired by Walker Evans' 1955 book American Photographs and for the first time realized that photographs could communicate something special and unique. Impressed by not only Evans, but also by Robert Frank, whose book The Americans also came out in 1955, Winogrand emulated their intelligent use of the photographic medium. And immediately set out to carve his own niche as an imagemaker who participated in, as well as documented contemporary life. Winogrand made the city, the zoo, the airport, and the rodeo his home, and spent endless hours photographing there. A photographer of this sort is a wanderer, constantly roaming the globe, clicking the shutter wherever he went.
Winogrand's photographs catch that odd moment where unrelated activities coincided, and it is the nature of these juxtapositions that sets his work apart from other photographers. He photographed all subjects with the same detached but observant eye, making complex compositions through which the viewer weaves. In his first book The Animals (1969), photographs of people and animals at the zoo are both a humorous and sarcastic look at the human race. The animals exhibit human-like qualities and when photographed in relation to humans it is often hard to tell who is performing for whom. In one shot an elderly woman wearing diamond studded pointy sunglasses looks out from the lower right hand corner of the image. Behind her two rhinos butt heads, their bodies echoing the shape of her glasses. In another zoo photograph a couple rests against an animal cage, their backs turned to the animal who visually will cross their paths, breaking their interaction apart. Much of the action on Winogrand's photographs is implied. The pictures exist before, in anticipation of that which is about to occur.
Winogrand's other books include Women are Beautiful (1975), Public Relations (1977), and Stock Photographs: The Fort Worth Fat Stock Show and Rodeo (1980). For Women are Beautiful Winogrand photographed women on the streets of New York. He pictured them going about their business, unaware that they were being photographed. The women pictured are determined and fierce, and not necessarily feminine or beautiful. The pictures seem to be less about a particular subject than where the subject lies in space and how the light falls to illuminate them and their surroundings.
Public Relations was a project to "photograph the effect of the media on events." The photographs in this series include pictures taken at sports arenas as well as at special parties and events. Shot with a flash, these images not only document a particular time and place in American history (like a Muhammad Ali press conference, or a dinner for the Apollo 11 astronauts), but they give us a glimpse of how these situations were created for the media.
This exhibition juxtaposes a selection of the photographs he made in New York City with those from Los Angeles. Those of New York are dark and dense. Shot from the hip, often at an angle, they are packed compositions that usually feature a central figure or couple juxtaposed with peripherals that echo the central image. In photographing Los Angeles, Winogrand opened up his compositions, allowing light the fill the frame. These images feature the lure of Los Angeles--snake charmers on Venice Beach, tourists in Hollywood, the Huntington Gardens and the Santa Monica pier. The characters who populate these places, celebrating the complexities of their interactions, is the subject of these images. Winogrand might document a single small gesture or look, but the photograph makes that moment significant. And it is this collection of significant moments that constitutes Winogrand's unique view of the world.