Living by the maxim ‘shoot first, edit later’ Garry Winogrand was perhaps the most prolific photographer of the 20th century. At the time of his premature death in 1984 at age 56, he left behind an astounding 6,500 rolls of developed but not proofed exposures as well as 2,500 rolls of undeveloped film.
A very small number of the artist’s most iconic images are featured in the first exhibition ever devoted to his entire career at the SFMOMA until June 2nd.
By dutifully chronicling mid-20th century America as it quickly dusted off its post-war funk, he examined a number of recurring themes – human isolation and the rise of suburbia and the middle class.
The exhibition features 300 black and white photographs in 3 sections. Although he is most known for his depiction of the chaos of the streets of New York in the ’50’s and ’60’s, (‘Down from the Bronx’) this exhibition also includes images from his travels out of the city during this time (‘A Student of America’).
*** Garry Winogrand, John F. Kennedy, Democratic National Convention, Los Angeles, 1960; posthumous digital reproductions from original negative;Garry Winogrand Archive, Center for Creative Photography, University of Arizona; © The Estate of Garry Winogrand, courtesy Fraenkel Gallery, San Franciso
In the third section ‘Boom and Bust’ (1971-1984) features pictures taken in Texas, Southern California, Chicago, Washington, Miami and other locations. He was once quoted, “You could say that I am a student of photography, and I am; but really I’m a student of America.”
The exhibition was conceived and guest curated by photographer and author Leo Rubenfien. “There exists in photography no other body of work of comparable size or quality that is so editorially unresolved,” says Rubinfien, who was among the youngest of Winogrand’s circle of friends in the 1970s. “This exhibition represents the first effort to comprehensively examine Winogrand’s unfinished work. It also aims to turn the presentation of his work away from topical editing and toward a freer organization that is faithful to his arts essential spirit, thus enabling a new understanding of his oeuvre, even for those who think they know him.”
Like contemporaries Diane Arbus and Lee Friedlander, he didn’t adhere to the principles of photojournalism as championed by Henri Cartier Bresson and the incredibly popular photo magazines of the ’50’s and ”60’s. He blurred the lines between art and photojournalism just by making it all about the image – not the subject. He once said, “I photograph to see what the world looks like in photographs.” Daily life in post-war America was what fascinated him most – the hope of prosperity countered by the dislocation and alienation that it created. Although he would have denied it he turned ordinary moments into extraordinary photographs.
Exhibition dates: March 09 – June 02, 2013
The exhibition travels to Washington, D.C., New York, Paris and Madrid in 2013-15.