The vision of America that photographer Garry Winogrand (1928-1984) captured in his lifetime has evolved since his death, but his photographs capture a timeless essence of the nation.. One of the most influential photographers of the twentieth century, Winogrand left behind over sixty-five hundred rolls of film that he never processed, or that he processed but never proofed, the contents of which he therefore never saw. The publication of the near 500-page retrospective, Garry Winogrand, edited by Leo Rubinfien, exposes many of these unseen photographs and tells a fuller story of a man who chose America as his subject and his teacher. It is a colossal homage that showcases hundreds of Winogrand’s photographs and offers a perspective – at once unique and universal – on the intricacies and absurdities of American life in the twentieth century.
Winogrand was born in New York City and his career began whilst traipsing the streets of Manhattan. Below Ninety-sixth Street and above Thirty-fourth Street was his usual terrain. In the 1960s, he was shooting often outside of his commercial assignments, and seemed as if on patrol, always ready to capture the pulse of Manhattan. His work at this time overturned the comfortable, fixed certainty to which picture-stories often clung, and instead embraced the randomness of human experience.
In his 1963 application for his first Guggenheim fellowship, Winogrand wrote that he had “been photographing the United States, trying… to learn who we are and how we feel, by seeing what we look like as history has been and is happening to us in this world.” He first crossed the country in 1955 and became interested in the new cultures of suburbia and the booming American Southwest. He took photographs all over the country, yet his subjects were rarely exotic. Winogrand’s America was as light as it was dark, as filled with sunlight as it was with trash. He saw the beautiful in the chaotic subject, and left us with a remarkable, vast, and multifaceted portrait of America.
In celebration of the sense of place that Winogrand’s photographs have endowed, we are holding a contest! Just as Winogrand used the language of image to guide his understanding and exploration of America, we ask you to tweet an original photograph that you believe captures some detail or peculiarity of a country. We are looking for a photo that captures a sense of time and place. It need not be America! Tweet us @yaleARTbooks with hashtag #YUPphotocontest and identify the country your photo represents. Please submit your photos by Friday, May 3. We will select a the best representational photo and the winner will receive a copy of the magnificent new catalog for the exhibition currently on view at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art. We’ll announce the winner via Twitter on Tuesday, May 7!