Garry Winogrand was an American photographer who became a significant pioneer of street photography in the 1960s and 70s. One of the key photographers of a generation that included Diane Arbus, Joel Meyorowitz and Lee Friedlander, Winogrand’s signature style combined a dazzling visual and photographic dexterity with the documentation of both social issues and daily life in urban America. Primarily a photographer of New York, his extensive archive is one of the great records of the city from the period.
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Street Corner Evangelist ‘Rosie’ Preaching at Broadway & 45th Street, New York City, 1966
Winogrand was born on 14 January 1928 into a working class immigrant family in the Bronx, New York. His parents worked in the garment industry. After finishing high school Winogrand spent a year in the US airforce before enrolling in a painting course at the City College of New York. He then moved on to study painting and photography at Columbia University in 1948. In 1951 he briefly studied photojournalism under Alexey Brodovitch, the great art director who influenced the careers of many celebrated twentieth-century photographers.
Known for his abrasive pictures and bold approach, Winogrand developed a style that was influenced by earlier figures such as Walker Evans and Henri Cartier-Bresson, but that was more aggressive in its look and technique: a look that was in tune with 1960s aesthetics. However, despite the unsolicited and intrusive nature of many of his pictures Winogrand was not a cruel photographer: in fact his friend, Diane Arbus, once described his work as “without malice”. Instead it is a restless, obsessive, enormous record of American street life, the making of which allowed little time for niceties. Sean O’Hagan has said that “many of his reluctant subjects only seem to register his presence at the very moment he presses the shutter… as is often the case with Winogrand’s photographs, you long to find out what happened next”.
Winogrand’s work is built up of personal projects that were funded in the early years by commercial work, and later by three Guggenheim Fellowships that he was awarded in 1964, 1969 and 1979. He also earned a living through teaching photography at various universities in the 1970s. Winogrand was extremely prolific, and it was in part due to this that his archive contains such a wide-ranging view of post-war America. The subject matter that he tackled ranged from hippies to Harlem, and it covers most of the key themes of the age from racial tension to the explosion of youth culture. While most of his work was taken on the streets of New York, he also photographed in Texas and Los Angeles during the 1970s and the final years of his life.
Winogrand died suddenly of gallbladder cancer in 1984 at the age of 56. He left behind thousands of undeveloped rolls of film, testimony to his obsession with taking photographs as opposed to processing and editing them. Many of these photographs have been exhibited posthumously in a series of touring exhibitions. Winogrand was married three times, and had three children.