Behind the scenes: Garry Winogrand at work
Filmed as part of a larger documentary, Michael Engler’s 'Contemporary Photography in the USA' features photographer Garry Winogrand just two years before his death in 1984 at the age of 56. Although the Bronx-born photographer is often referred to as a street photographer - perhaps one of the best of his generation - he hated the expression, explaining in the video 'I think it's a stupid term. Street photographer. It doesn’t tell you anything about the photographer or [the] work.'
Photographing people on the street in the 1960s wasn't as common as it is today, of course, and Winogrand was as fearless as they come. Once he spied someone he wanted to photograph, within seconds he'd dart over to the person, bring his Leica's viewfinder up to his eye, snap the shutter and be on the lookout for his next subject.
In the video, you can see Winogrand's eyes and body in constant motion, scanning the passersby and frequently darting away from the filmmaker mid-sentence to take a photograph.
At that rate, we can only imagine how many rolls of 35mm film this prolific shooter cranked through his camera in a day. When he passed away, it's reported that he left behind several hundred thousand images, including a few thousand unprocessed rolls of film. But his exhibitions, archives and books have left us with enough images to see life through his eyes.
Winogrand claimed that he didn't think of pictures when he snapped the shutter. Rather, he said, 'When I photograph, I see life; that’s all there is in my viewfinder.'
How has street photography changed since Winogrand - or has it? Would you feel comfortable adopting his in-your-face style?