15 Best Photos of Garry Winogrand
“Photography is not about the thing photographed. It is about how that thing looks photographed.” -Garry Winogrand
Garry Winogrand (1928–1984) was a highly influential American street photographer. Blending documentary and photojournalism styles, Winogrand recorded the social and cultural landscapes of the postwar United States. Among his most iconic works are black and white images capturing the energy of the New York City streets.
Winogrand used a Leica M4 with a wide-angle 28mm lens, switching to a 35mm lens later on. The small-format camera was convenient for his travels and allowed him the liberty of movement when photographing the streets. Winogrand was an extremely prolific photographer: he used to take 400-500 images every day. In the course of his life, he developed some 20,000 rolls of film and shot close to 6 million photos!
Central Park Zoo is among Winogrand’s most widely exhibited photographs. Public spaces like sidewalks, beaches, campgrounds, boardwalks, and zoos were among his favorite spots for capturing everyday life in New York in the 1950s and 1960s.
In one of his most recognisable images, Winogrand shares an intimate scene of people absorbed in conversation, oblivious of the bustling city around them. Although his photography was documentary in nature, it was above all spontaneous and focused on the human condition.
Winogrand used to take impromptu photos of people on the streets, and elegant passers-by were among his recurring subjects. He often snapped images at the very moment people realized they were being photographed.
Photographing anonymous subjects like the laughing woman holding an ice cream is typical of Winogrand’s work. He didn’t ask people to pose for the shots and most of the everyday scenes were captured by chance.
This dynamic Coney Island shot exemplifies Winogrand’s departure from the classical photography style. Instead of meticulously structuring his photographs, he preferred emphasizing the spontaneous nature of everyday moments.
Winograd took numerous photos during his visits to the Central Park Zoo and Coney Island Aquarium with his children. He believed in the photographic value of everyday life, insisting that “no moment is most important. Any moment can be something.”
New York, 1960s
Using wide-angle lenses allowed Winogrand to fill the frame and capture as much of the scene as possible. At the same time, it required coming close to his subjects in order to get his shots, something that perfectly suited his photography style.
Winogrand defined a new approach to street photography. His shots were taken on the spur of the moment and often appeared mysterious or confusing.
Some of Winogrand’s images with their disconcerting content and focus can be interpreted as a portrait of the underlying ambiguity in postwar America.
Tilted horizons and angles were representative of Winogrand’s street photography. These techniques made it possible to fit more into the scene, at the same time eliminating the sense of perfection and design.
Winogrand was known for capturing unguarded moments he witnessed on the streets. He believed that the interpretation of his photos was up to the viewer. Even the titles of his works don’t reveal any information about the images except for their locations.
Winogrand wasn’t interested in photography that followed clean rules of composition: in this Coney Island shot, a man is cut off abruptly and the main subject’s head remains hidden.
For Winogrand, the story behind a picture was of little significance. He wanted viewers to focus on a photograph’s power rather than the meaning of whatever moment it captured.
Freezing his subjects in spontaneous poses was characteristic of Winogrand’s street photography. The movement and the energy of this photo were emblematic of New York in the 1950s and ‘60s.
Winogrand’s photographs are often centered around a single pensive person in the midst of a crowd. He once said that he never knew what the true story behind a picture was. All he cared about was the image itself.
Irma is a freelance travel writer and globetrotter with a passion for cities, architecture, and art. You can find her most days searching for that perfect cup of coffee and planning new adventures.