Garry Winogrand a “street smart Jewish kid from the Bronx” was born today, January 14th 1928. He was lovingly described in a 1984 obituary in The Washington Post as “a blunt spoken, sweet-natured native New Yorker, who had the voice of a Bronx cabbie and the intensity of a pig hunting truffles.” It is estimated, and this is a conservative approximation, that armed with a Leica, he produced a body of work that numbered 300,000 photographs. At his death he left behind 2500 undeveloped rolls of 36 exposure 35mm Tri-X, 6500 rolls of developed film that had not been contacted printed for selections and editing, and 300 contact sheets of work from which no selections had be made for printing. Part of the reason for this cache of undeveloped, untouched work, is that Winogrand would often wait a year or two so as not to be influenced by the experience he had with the subject. “If I was in a good mood when I was shooting one day, then developed the film right away,” he told a class, “I might choose a picture because I remember how good I felt when I took it.”
That’s a prodigious output, and collection of work. His first wife commented that, “Being married to Garry was like being married to a lens.” He often employed a wide angle lens and was less concerned with composition than with content; a skewed horizon became a trademark of his work.
His work won him a Guggenheim fellowship. He was included in Edward Steichen’s 1955 “Family of Man” exhibit, and two major exhibits of his work at the MoMA that were curated by John Szarkowski. He is often compared by critics to photographers like Henri Cartier-Bresson, Robert Frank, and Diane Arbus.
Much of his work – some might contend his best era – was created during the tumult of the sixties. When he applied for the Guggenheim grant he wrote that he felt the mainstream media, “all deal in illusions and fantasies. I can only conclude that we have lost ourselves and that the bomb may finish the job permanently, and it just doesn’t matter, we have not loved life. I cannot accept my conclusions, and so I must continue this photographic investigation further and deeper. This is my project.”
While waiting for the grant John F Kennedy was assassinated.