American Life: The Photography of Garry Winogrand

Hello Photoion fans. We’ve got another instalment in the Masters of Photography series for you. Today, we’re taking a look at Garry Winogrand, one of the most prolific street photographers of the mid-20th century.
Street Photography is one of the most powerful forms in this art; able to convey the everyday life and social feelings of the time in a single frame. So much of Street Photography, from the professional, even down to the swathe of images on social media sites like Instagram, owe themselves to the work on Winogrand.

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Born in 1928, Garry Winogrand was the son of immigrant parents. He grew up in a mainly Jewish area of the Bronx, New York; an area that exposed him to the hustle and bustle of average American life from an early age.

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One can argue that if you want to capture the perfect images of American life, you go to New York. This cross-section of the American Dream clearly appealed to Winogrand artistically. At 19 he studied painting at the City College of New York, and a year later studied painting and photography at Columbia University.

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Being the son of a working class immigrant family gave Winogrand easy access to the “average” American; those chasing that elusive American Dream. It’s no surprise then that so much of Winogrand’s most famous early work occurs on the streets of New York. During his time in New York, Winogrand won the Guggenheim fellowship to explore “photographic studies of American Life”, which once again brought his lens to the average Americans and their lives.

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3 years later he published his first book, The Animals, which explored the connections between humans and animals, a theme that continues to captivate photographers to this day. Winogrands work juxtaposed the lives of the animals in the Bronx Zoo and Coney Island Aquarium with the lives of the people he captured with his camera day in and day out.

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By 1969, Winogrand had been awarded a second Guggenheim Fellowship to explore the effect of the media on events. At a time where events and news being created by the media was still a relatively small problem, Winogrand was using his camera to capture the truth. This phenomenon is something no one could have anticipated becoming as widespread as it is today, with the media creating or exaggerating news for ratings or sales. But Winogrand was at the forefront of this emerging field of “news”, and over the next few years he produced over 6,500 prints on the topic, many of which were eventually turned into his 1977 book, Public Relations.

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Over the course of the next decade, until his death in 1984, Garry Winogrand continued to explore American life through his lens. He covered political and social events, continued exploring the comparisons between humans and animals in his book, Stock Photographs, and taught photography across America, from Los Angeles, to Illinois, to Texas.

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At the time of his death, much of Winogrand’s work was unreleased and unprocessed, with around 300,000 unseen images. Many of these images have been released posthumously, and Winogrand continues to be a shining example, and in many cases, a leading figure, of street photography.

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