Photos by Garry Winogrand
What we now consider “street photography” begins and ends with Garry Winogrand.
Winogrand was born and raised in the Bronx, and despite photographing with great success in LA and elsewhere, New York remained the focal point of his photography. Noted for his ability to depict social issues through his stills, he’s widely regarded as one of the most influential photographers of the 60s and 70s. “Photography is not about the thing photographed,” Winograd famously said. “It is about how that thing looks photographed.” The Street Philosophy of Garry Winogrand is a beautiful hardcover collection of some of his most grabbing work, but it also has an extra layer, the words of Geoff Dyer.
Dyer is an award-winning English writer and critic, and lifelong fan of Winograd’s work. The Street Philosophy of Garry Winogrand has been curated by Dyer, with his essays accompanying the photos. Modelled on the style of John Szarkowski’s classic book Atget, in which the famous critic and historian curates and offers his own commentary on the work of the iconic French photographer Eugène Atget. While the beauty of Winograd’s photos is certainly in what they evoke—pictures speak thousands of words and all that—having someone who writes as beautifully as Dyer offer his thoughts as eloquently as he does, makes this far more than your regular coffee table decorator; something you flick through, utter Tthat’s nice” and then put down.
Of the above photo, a lonesome young girl waiting at a London bus stop, Dyer writes that it “…reminds us that the swinging 60s was a highly localised epoch… there is no sign that any of the associated tentacles—psychedelia, op art, flower power—reached from Carnaby Street or the Kings Road to this part of London, let alone the rest of England.” Glancing at the photo without context you’d certainly get an impression of the time and place, and the emotion of the little girl, but Dyer’s description joins the dots and makes studying it an experience. Rather than taking away from Winogrand’s work, Dyer’s words add a richness that really makes the book something quite special.
The book is a collection of 100 photographs from Winograd’s archive, ranging from some of his most iconic shots to ones previously unseen, and it also features 18 never before published colour photos. Perhaps the most striking thing about the book is how a little knowledge can add so much. Although photography is widely regarded as the most impactful (and endlessly difficult to master) medium when it comes to portraying information or provoking thought, when combined with articulate words, it becomes something totally powerful. As Winograd himself put it, “In the end, maybe the correct language would be how the fact of putting four edges around a collection of information or facts transforms it. A photograph is not what was photographed, it’s something else.”