Masters of Photography: Garry Winogrand

00704_sfmoma_winogrand_centralparkzoo_1967 Garry Winogrand, Coney Island, New York. c. 1952 Garry Winogrand, John F. Kennedy International Airport, New York, 1968 Garry Winogrand, John F. Kennedy, Democratic National Convention Garry Winogrand, Los Angeles, 1964 Garry Winogrand, New York, 1969 jpeg-1 jpeg-2 x2013.505.510_01_B01 winogrand_12 winogrand_14 winogrand_15 winogrand_19 winogrand_21 winogrand_25 winogrand_29 winogrand_30 winogrand_31 winogrand_32 winogrand_34 winogrand_36 winogrand_38 winogrand_42 winogrand_44 winogrand_52 winogrand_56 winogrand_57 winogrand_60

Granted that simplicity is a virtue; beyond this it is too complex a matter to generalize about with impunity. One might add with reasonable confidence that simple does not mean vacuous, obvious, plain, habitual, formulated, banal, or empty.

The ability to produce pictures richly complex in their description would seem to be intrinsic to photography; indeed, this characteristic might almost be considered a simple fact of the medium. Nevertheless, much of the best energy of photographers during the past seventy years has been dedicated to the task of thinning out the rank growth of information that the camera impartially records if left to its own devices, in favor of pictures which have been — for lack of a better word — simpler. This has been achieved in many ways: by printing techniques that have allowed radical manipulation, by soft-focus lenses, stage lighting, high-contrast negatives, exaggerated grain, corrective filters, or worm’s- or bird’s-eye perspectives; by photographing details close up, or two-dimensional subjects (such as old walls); or simply by printing the picture very dark or very light. Stated this baldly these various experiments sound less interesting and less productive (and simpler) than they were in historical fact. In practice the struggle for visual coherence is continuous; when one problem is solved, a more difficult one rises in its place.

In photography the formal issue might be stated as this: How much of the camera’s miraculous descriptive power is the photographer capable of handling? Or how much complexity can he make simple? Or, conversely, how much diversity must he sacrifice for the sake of order?

Consider Garry Winogrand‘s picture: so rich in fact and suggestion, and so justly resolved, more complex and more beautiful than the movie that Alfred Hitchcock might derive from it. (from “Looking at Photographs” by John Szarkowski)