Garry Winogrand at the Met

By Peggy Roalf   Tuesday July 1, 2014

“One side is a great exuberant warmth, a love of the plebeian energy of American life, and the other side is a persistent despair, that it’s all out of control and that it will end up badly. The two are so welded to each other that in any one of the best photos, you don’t know whether to feel elated or horrified, and you feel both.”

In a recent interview, Leo Rubinfien, curator of the Winogrand retrospective currently on view at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, spoke of the dual nature of Garry Winogrand’s work, as quoted above. As a young man, Rubinfien was a student of Winogrand’s in 1971 and became a longtime friend. His understanding of the man, through that friendship, and his work, through combing the Winogrand archive at the Center for Creative Photography, in Tucson, Arizona, resulted in an edgy selection of 175 images for the exhibition now on display in New York, and the accompanying catalogue of 400 images.

Garry Winogrand, born in the Bronx, had the jazzy vibe of the street, often in chaos, in his blood. Shooting on the run, he was constantly in motion and created a skewed view of the people who occupied his rangefinder.


At the New York World’s Fair, 1964. Garry Winogrand/Copyright estate of Garry Winogrand/Courtesy of Fraenkel Gallery

Often turning the camera at an angle in order to make a group of people fit inside the frame, he forged a new style in photography, one that captured the frenetic pace of city life. “The world isn’t tidy; it’s a mess,” he once said. “I don’t try to make it neat.” Exposing hundreds of frames a day, his practice resulted in an innate sensitivity to nuance and composition that is unmatched in photography.

His radar naturally picked up on oddness and absurdity; his pictures of ordinary people and activities become extraordinary images. Winogrand famously said, “photography is not about the thing photographed. It is about how that thing looks photographed,” a maxim that challenges statements by past masters such as Edward Weston, who insisted that photography was a vehicle for creating a metaphor for “the thing itself”. Following is a selection of images from the retrospective.

A driver, wearing a bandage, and his passenger in Los Angeles, 1964. Garry Winogrand/Copyright estate of Garry Winogrand/Courtesy of Fraenkel Gallery

At Coney Island, N.Y., circa 1952. Copyright the Estate of Garry Winogrand, courtesy of Fraenkel Gallery

Passersby on a New York street, circa 1960. Garry Winogrand/Copyright estate of Garry Winogrand/Courtesy of Fraenkel Gallery 

Fort Worth, 1975. Garry Winogrand/Copyright estate of Garry Winogrand/Courtesy of Fraenkel Gallery

At a campaign rally for Republican presidential nominee Richard Nixon in New York in 1960. Garry Winogrand/Copyright estate of Garry Winogrand/Courtesy ofFraenkel Gallery

Fort Worth, circa 1974-77. Garry Winogrand/Copyright estate of Garry Winogrand/Courtesy of Fraenkel Gallery

Garry Winogrand continues at the Metropolitan Museum of Art through September 21, 2014. 1000 Fifth Avenue at 82nd Street, NY, NY. Information. It will then travel to Jeu de Paume, Paris, where it will be on view October 14, 2014-February 8, 2015. Information. The exhibition catalogue (448 pages; $85 hardcover, $50 softcover) is published by SFMOMA in association with Yale University Press. The exhibition will be featured on the Museum’s website at

Education programs include a Sunday at the Met on June 29; a series of exhibition tours; a gallery talk with a contemporary photographer on July 25; a two-day workshop on July 12 and 19 that will use the exhibition as a catalyst for exploring techniques for photographing scenes and portraits "on the street"; and an eight-day art, photography, and blogging workshop for teens, focusing on images and reflections of New York City. Information

Garry Winogrand, 1928–1984, was born in New York, where he lived and worked during much of his life. Winogrand photographed the visual cacophony of city streets, people, rodeos, airports and animals in zoos. These subjects are among his most exalted and influential work. Winogrand was the recipient of numerous grants, including several Guggenheim Fellowships and a National Endowment for the Arts Fellowship. His work has been the subject of many museum and gallery exhibition, and was included in the 1967 “New Documents” exhibition, curated by John Szarkowski at the Museum of Modern Art, New York. In 2013 the San Francisco Museum of Art mounted a major retrospective exhibition including over 160 photographs Winogrand’s work. The exhibition is traveling to venues including the National Gallery of Art in Washington D.C.; The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York; Jeu de Paume, Paris, France; Fundacíon MAPFRE, Madrid, Spain. Many monographs of Winogrand’s work have been published, including The Man in the Crowd: the Uneasy Streets of Garry Winogrand, The Animals, Women are Beautiful, Arrivals and Departures, Winogrand: Figments from the Real World, and Garry Winogrand, a catalogue accompanying the retrospective exhibition.