Gary Winogrand, Post Mortem Photographer.

Discussion in 'Philosophy' started by alan_zinn, May 28, 2013.

  1. Aperture 210 is out.
    "Hello Photography. Relaunch Issue.
    Speaking the Language of Photography…"
    Featuring: … LINK
    I got my $25 worth out of it.
    The new edition hits on some of our more recent topics. It inspired me to post a question or two.
    Garry Winogrand is featured in a publication that aspires to reach an expanded audience of cellcamers and the like. Us old-hands who know the photography canon might find that apropos. Reading the new Aperture piece suggested to me that GW can still inspire a current, more evolved discourse.
    We all know GW died young with a ton of un-printed negs and un-processed film. We have all read and quoted a ton of his epigram-like pronouncements. Knowing what he thought isn't hard to find.
    His published body -- while he lived -- of photographs is a fraction of all those un-printed and un-developed negs. He admitted to having thrown away "thousands" of negs and printed very few his whole life.
    That he is one of our icons poses some critical problems. The new book and exhibit LINK is of the work somebody else felt were GW enough to speak for him. That alone, to me, should inspire a lot of discussion. (The Americans was edited down from 28,000 images to only 83 by Frank and his editor.)
    Q. What do you think about the post-mortem editing of un-published and un-seen work?
    BTW the book is huge and costs around $90. I browsed it and afterwards felt way over satiated - a lot of empty calories. The feeling I had was, you can't blame GW for the book.
    And, regardless of your taste for the genre -- you might HATE street photography, and GW in particular -- what if a mega-trove of anybody's work of that nature was plucked out of time and given the same editorial and critical treatment?
  2. I have always had a bit of a reservation with this sort of thing, however, in a fairly recent show of another photographer's work, there was a print of a negative that he never printed--one he had just chose not to print apparently. That image was just incredible and maybe the best in the show (and in concert with the type of work he did overall). It was printed by the photographer's son or at least with his input. That particular experience made me reconsider my view point.
    In addition to this, I also know that I often find important images, to me, in my own work several years after I created it. The subconscious often works way ahead of the conscious mind, so maybe this is another reason to reconsider such things.
    Basically, I guess I have come to a point where I don't think it matters all that much who picks or prints it. Even in life, often the selects for a show or book is not made by the artist but by a curator or publisher. The fact that gems are discovered after someone's death doesn't diminish the work that was already done.
  3. "External Examination: The body is that of a white adult female appearing the stated age of 48 years, well-developed, well-nourished, measuring 5'6" in length and weighing 100 lbs. Rigidity is absent. Dark greenish post-mortem discoloration is present over the face, the left side of trunk and anterior aspects of the lower legs.
    "The epidermis of the skin of the face has been sloughed off, due to decomposition. Hair can be pulled out readily.
    "Networks of vascular markings can be visualized on these greenish discoloration areas. The anterior aspects of the right and left wrists have been cut transversely. There are three such cuts on the left side and two on the right side. These cuts are deep and have severed many tendons of the muscular insertion. The radial arteries and veins on both sides, however, are intact. The hands are covered by a large amount of dried blood and the anterior aspects of the lower legs, below the knees, are also covered by a large amount of dried blood."
    I'll spare you the description of the contents of her stomach and her genitalia. That's the medical examiner's report on the autopsy of Diane Arbus, published by her daughter, Doon. How do you think Diane Arbus would feel (have felt ?) about this kind of exposure?
    King Tut and all of the contents of his burial site were put on exhibit all over the world, presumably without his permission.
    I have books that contain the contact sheets of Arbus, of Frank, and of HCB. The last two were presumably published with the permission of the photographers; the first (Arbus's) was not. I have a book showing all of Weston's work, from the archive -- much of it dull as dishwater (the Mexican cataloguing of objects, for example).
    At the end of the Winogrand monograph that the OP references Erin O'Toole writes this:
    "Since Winogrand's death, there has been a tendency to characterize his reluctance to edit in negative terms — to observe that he had insufficient time to finish what he started, or to suggest that he was averse to editing or bad at it. Perhaps it would be more constructive to consider the unfinished state of his work not as a "problem" but as a positive expression of the values that drove him, including the impulse to take risks, an appreciation of life's wild unpredictability, and a love of freedom. Winogrand was willing, even eager, to permit colleagues he trusted to organize and present his work as they saw fit, and perfect control over the results seems not to have meant a great deal to him. "My life doesn't depend on it," he said."​
    Winogrand seems to be one of the figures that will be important to the history of photography. He's there at the hinge, a turning point, that Aaron Siskind described in thanks: "Homage to Walker Evans who knows how to walk into and out of his picture — unobtrusively; and to Robert Frank who takes you into his pictures and leaves you there."
    ... giving up the anthropological/documentary pretensions that confuse the very subjective Agee text with Evans' work in Let Us Now Praise Famous Men, and frankly jumping into bed with the visual ...
    Given the relatively small amount of Winogrand's work that was published before his death (Arrivals and Departures with about 100 pictures; Animals with 43; Public Relations with ~100; Stock Photographs with ~100) I find the OP comment that the new monograph is "empty calories" the exact opposite of my own feelings. The new book is a much needed filling out of what I know about this key figure; a treasure trove of interesting work.
    [*note that Winogrand's first name is spelled with two Rs: it's GaRRy]
  4. Julie,
    I agree -- anyone's body of work is an open resource available for reimagining like "Fur". The success of the new look at GW is yet to be determined. I am asking if, with a raw meal of documents cooked by someone else without him, we see him as an artist in a meaningful way. Are never expressed thoughts based on impulsive gestures to obtain un-anticipated results telling us about WG or the editors? I have my answer for that but want to see what other' might think.
    Being quoted or sampled is a different question. I believe we see in this instance something uniquely photographc.
    Imagine a poet's reiterative marginalia without the poem and revisioned by someone else.
  5. Why do you think Winogrand took photographs? Given his life history in photography ... ?
    You imply that he did no "cookery" in-camera; that he had no idea what he was doing when he was doing it.
  6. I visited the GW exhibit last month in San Francisco. Many of the new pictures presented were pulled from contact sheets that were printed during Winogrands life and were circled in red. Presumably these were frames that Winogrand was interested in and may have gone on to print at a future date. The rest were chosen by the curators themselves and to me they picked some strong images.
    While I don't shoot anywhere near the amount that GW did, I know where he is coming from. Yesterday was the last day of a three month solo exhibit of pictures I took at last years Special Olympics Summer Games. It took me months to make the 31 prints; hours and hours in the darkroom that I could have spent out shooting. A second offer for a exhibit of my usual street photography style work was made but I turned it down because of the amount of work involved and due to the fact that I don't edit my own work for the most part. I don't make contact sheets, I simply view my negatives on a light table and choose what to print that way. I also have many, many rolls going back years that I've processed but never really looked at. So how can I possibly exhibit the best of my work when I would be faced with the enormously time consuming task of have to go through all these rolls of film? In all honesty, I'd rather be out shooting. So I'm with Winogrand on this - anyone who wants to exhibit my work is free to do so, but they will be the ones to have to do most of the legwork. I photograph purely for fun and I just don't have the ability or inclination to try to get my work "out there" and to take care of the business side of photography.
  7. Sometimes the people who take the shot, paint the picture, etc are not the best choice for editing what gets printed, or what doesn't get printed. As long as someone has a good eye, let 'em give it a try.
    I'm not on the Winogrand bandwagon. This looks like fashionable interest that people aim to make a buck off of. He was certainly good, but not the icon people want to make him into, and there's a lot of better, more influential photographers I would rate ahead of him. Too much has been made of his working style. I just want to see the images, stripped from all that nonsense. It's like the time I got lucky and saw a frisco gallery that had a big showing of Warhol's art, and right across the street, by coincidence, there was a big showing of the big abstract types like Clyfford Still, Robert Motherwell, etc. Maybe it was the pieces they had selected (you can never count that out), but I don't think so. Warhol blew them away. The pieces were just beautiful and hard hitting, while the Expressionist works by the above artists looked lesser. Too formulaic. What I was seeing was not the hype either, as it was the 90's by then. It was just the images.
  8. I think it was Brett Weston who burned his negatives so that nobody might print them (differently) in the future. We should let the memory of Winogrand lie in peace. He made his statements while alive and they are appreciated, or not, for what he did and presented in that period. It becomes tiring to see the same names reappearing when so many good artist-photographers have worked or are working on all the continents, as well as in North America, yet virtually forgotten or unknown. In that regard, and amongst the better known, Michael Kenna and Ralph Gibson, who have a rather common minimalist but structured aesthetic in photographing places or people, receive relatively little press.
  9. As a viewer of images I frequently am not concerned of who made them or why or even when. There are times however when I may want to view images made by a particular photographer and then it would be interesting to know if it was an "orginal" or post-anything.
    I'm getting ready to delve into a box of slides I shot in 1975. I'll look at them.. scan.. shoot over to photoshop and/or Lightroom and put them on the net and/or print.
    I'm now 55 and not the 18 year old I was then. The cells in my brain have all been recycled and my world views, my desires, ambitions, religion/spirituality are different. While the name on the copyright may be the same... who made the image?
  10. Richard, I sometimes hear parents asking the same "who made ... ?" question about their offspring.
    If you were denying that it was *you* who took the pictures, we could run them through the Rehpargotoph-O-Later (which, as you may know, backtracks the trajectory of *all* light impacts in the photograph in question to form a image at the perspectival center of the capturing device i.e. it reconstitutes an image of the photographer whose finger was on the button).
    The first-cousin to your question is that of who it is that you find in your photographs, because their atoms have likewise promiscuated wither and yon since whenever.
    (Please note that putting oneself (instead of a photograph) into the Rehpargotohp-O-Later in hopes of regaining a lost time is not a good idea -- it only does a sort of thin crust, which is itchy.)
  11. Yes, I've seen lots of GW's pictures, and yes, they are mildly entertaining. But genius? I don't think so. If he does win a prize, it's probably as the most obsessive-compulsive photographer in history. Unfortunately, this is too much like one of those infinite number of monkeys writing Gone With the Wind.
  12. Yes, I've seen lots of GW's pictures, and yes, they are mildly entertaining. But genius? I don't think so. If he does win a prize, it's probably as the most obsessive-compulsive photographer in history. Unfortunately, this is too much like one of those infinite number of monkeys writing Gone With the Wind.
  13. Julie H., you ask two questions and make one supposition:

    "A) Why do you think Winogrand took photographs? B)Given his life history in photography ... ?

    C) You imply that he did no "cookery" in-camera; that he had no idea what he was doing when he was doing it."

    A) Garry answered this question when he was asked it, his answer was classic Winogrand, "To see what things looked
    like when photographed."

    He was as best as I can tell a very curious guy about this, he really wanted to see what kind of serendipity resulted when
    he shot the way he did. A good friend of his and mine once told me he and Garry had a kind of dialectic going in their
    photographs "Garry said I shot trying to find the order in chaos and I said yeah but you shoot to find the chaos in order."
    (Source: Jay Maisel, in a conversation I was having with him about Winogrand ca. 2009)

    B) what do you know about his life history in photography? Do you know about his work as an advertising photographer
    and as a sports photographer for Sports Illustrated in the '50s and early '60s? His teaching career in NYC, and Austin
    (UT art department , late '70s which is where I met him - but I can't say I really knew him)
  14. Julie (and others) I thought you might find this interview interesting:

    Renee Nemerov is Diane Arbus' sister.
  15. Thanks Ellis. I have read Bosworth's biography of Arbus (long ago), but it's been very much criticized by people who seem to me to have known her better, so that's worth bearing in mind.
    There's no question that Arbus suffered from depression; she talks about it herself in her own writings near the end of her life.
    On your prior comment, there are so many stories about Winogrand ... there's a great piece by Friedlander in the Arrivals and Departures book. (From his hospital bed: Winogrand to Friedlander, "Hey Lee, how long have you and I been married?" ... and more)
  16. My criticism of Bosworth's book is that a lot of it comes off as gossipy (Richard Avedon and Marvin Israel do not off well at
    all). My impression is that many of the people who have criticized it have done so out of loyalty to or fear of Doon Arbus
    cutting them off. Renee Nemerov does not appear to be in that camp.

    Garry taught at UT in Austin while I was there. I have a couple of my own anecdotes - he loved tweaking officious
    people's noses; his critiques were blunt- a no or a positive grunt as he'd go through a students work prints; he had a
    wicked sense of humor. An ex-girlfriend of mine knew him much better.

    Another GW story from Jay: once Garry was photographing and a guy said "Stop taking my picture!" To which GW replied
    "They're not your pictures, they're my pictures!"

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