Garry Winogrand: The man who defined street photography

This week we explore towering figure of Garry Winogrand, a street photographer who portrayed New York and the rest of the America in an innovative and widely influential new way following the Second World War.

Photography Profile | Garry Winogrand | Exploring Photography 2

Winogrand was born in January 1928 in the Bronx. He left school in 1946 and joined the US air force. In 1948 he enrolled at Columbia University to study painting, before taking a photojournalism course, where his passion for photography began.

Winogrand defined street photography, although he hated the term, and the secret behind his success was using a wide-angle lens to fill the frame and tilting it to add an uncomfortable perspective. He was often raw, abrasive and confrontational, only making brief eye contact with a nod or subtle smirk, but his techniques challenged conventional image making and gained support from a number of established photographers including Australian Magnum photographer Trent Parke and the British photojournalist Marcus Bleasdale.

Photography Profile | Garry Winogrand | Exploring Photography 1

During the 50s and 60s Winogrand stalked the sidewalks of New York armed with only a camera and dozen of rolls of film, photographing the daily lives of the city’s habitants. His photographs document a changing America during the 1960s. ‘I photograph to see what the world looks like in photographs,’ he said. At a Nixon rally in 1960 he met the crowd head on, capturing a bespectacled central character in the claustrophobic group. ‘Photography is about finding out what can happen in the frame,’ he said. ‘When you put four edges around some facts, you change those facts.’

Photography Profile | Garry Winogrand | Exploring Photography 3

When he died, aged 56, Winogrand left behind 2,500 rolls of undeveloped film. ‘The world is untidy, it’s a mess,’ he said. He tried to make sense of it through photographs. There is new exhibition showcasing his work at the is at the Fundación Mapfre, Madrid, until May 3.

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