Garry Winogrand – Words and Images

A photograph is an illusion of a literal description. A camera saw a piece of time and space.

I’ve sorted through a few videos on Garry Winogrand, and I thought this one is the best for understanding him as a photographer. Winogrand is speaking to students at MIT (and frustrating the 1970s-version of Hipsters in the process). Winogrand was teaching at that point, mainly, it seems, as a means to learn more about photography. Indeed, he gives learning as the reason he shot.

The video is worth viewing by anyone who loves photography, as some of Winogrand’s best images are shown in a continual slideshow. (Winogrand’s Q&A session was audio only.) If you can, this one is worth viewing on a large screen.

P.S. He was right about Ralph Gibson. His work is shit dull.

7 thoughts on “Garry Winogrand – Words and Images

  1. Probably because of my loss of hearing, I had to resort to reading the transcript. He speaks too fast and his voice was of such a pitch that I missed many words.

    . . . but the transcript was little better. Frankly, it came across almost as testifying in his own trial and trying very hard not to give any straight answers.

    Now, I understand some of that. The guy goes out and shoots. He is very clear he has no agenda in mind other than capturing a moment. He also knows that removing the surrounding context makes that moment an island of information that ultimately tells you little of the surrounding sea.

    However, that is not strictly true . . . the island is a feature of the surrounding sea and affects our perception of it.

    Still, I get it. I don’t go out specifically to get a “message” or understand the world around me through photographs. I totally get the fact he shoots what captures his attention. I do the same, but the choice one makes, the choosing which photos to show, I don’t think that is strictly about the mechanics of photography and the results of those mechanics.

    Like it or not, choosing a photograph has to be justified to oneself and part of that often drifts into a narrative (at least for me and for many photographers). If he is truly a blank slate, no background, no features outside the narrow capture, I would find him unique among humans.

    Rather, I suspect he might have a more subconscious narrative, perhaps one he rather not admit to, perhaps because he does see it as a limiting factor.

    Then again, most people (including me) hate being told what motivates us. That’s what I got most from his talk; when the questions came (in my opinion) awfully close to the subtext of his work, he would go the extra lengths to obfuscate and deflect.

    Interesting talk . . . but I’m not sure I learned much.


    • I didn’t find him to be at all flippant. The students kept trying to get him to focus on the stuff that makes no difference (e.g. the technical aspects of photography) and weren’t listening to what he was trying to direct them to. Street photography is an art and approaching it like a science misses the point.


        • If you want to be great, you need to first learn that it is Art, and requires emphasis on the artistic elements. Your sarcasm aside, understanding the technical aspects will do NOTHING to make you a great photographer.

          If you don’t like it here, don’t come back, dude.


  2. Pingback: Garry Winogrand – Words and Images – M’s Review. | Just Art

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