Although it’s been documented that Garry Winogrand was not a fan of the label “street photographer”, there is absolutely no doubt he was a master. His body of work speaks to this and will stand as a testament to it for all time. Winogrand considered himself simply a “photographer”. He didn’t attach any other adjective to the noun. But, and probably much to his dismay, we have to consider him one of the greatest street photographers of all time. And it can also be argued that he is the greatest ever. But photography or street photography is not a competition. It’s not about how many fantastic photos you produce, or how many exhibitions you have our how many books you publish. Photography, at it’s core is personal. It feeds a hunger to create. To document. To share. However, that being said, Winogrand not only satisfied his creative drive, but he did it in great volume and with great artistic vision and skill. The man was prolific and incredibly talented.
Winogrand’s skewed angles in “capturing life” helped to further define street photography and helped him become one of the great names in photography. He’s had ten books published so far and an incredible amount of exhibitions. And, imagine the time when he was most prolific, the turbulent 1960’s. Also imagine some of the company he kept while shooting on the streets of New York City: Lee Friedlander, Diane Arbus and Joel Meyerowitz. He was in a perfect storm of photography and took full advantage of it. He later received a Guggenheim Fellowship award to travel the United States. Winogrand became a master and, in the 1970’s, shared his knowledge by teaching.
So How Did He Influence Me?
Winogrand’s vast and amazing body of work is influential on many levels, but it’s his prolific nature that really hits home. His realization that photography was an addiction and that he fully embraced it. While it’s sad to know that he didn’t see a staggering amount of his shots (it’s estimated he left behind 300,000 images), I find his drive simply incredible. There had been many times where I questioned myself on the quantity of shots I’ve taken on a single outing. Watching videos and reading of Winogrand’s processes, I realized I didn’t have a “problem” with shooting “too much”.
Am I as a talented as Winogrand? Definitely not. But that is not the point. I’m positive that Winogrand had far more “keepers” than I, but that point is irrelevant, too. I love shooting. And, I love surprising myself. I hardly ever review shots immediately after taking it. Now, I’ll think to myself, after a snap, “that was a good one”. And that may stick in my head until I review the group of shots days, or even weeks, later. But to be blindsided by a shot that was lost in your consciousness is the happiest of accidents, even though it wasn’t really an accident in the first place.
But that’s not why shooting a lot is influential to me. It’s just a bonus. Some folks prefer to be extremely judicious and stingy when on a hunt. Not I. I don’t get to shoot often, and when I do it’s a frenzy. I’m an animal uncaged. It makes me incredibly happy. Although I do try to find balance with having patience, I still click often. The world truly opens up to me through the viewfinder or the LCD, and it becomes my playground. I over-indulge my craving and I have no shame. Often, the majority of the shots get tossed. But that really doesn’t matter when I’m getting lost behind the lens. Winogrand said about shooting, “I get totally out of myself. It’s the closest I come to not existing. Which to me, is attractive, anyway.” Those words are that of an addict who has come to terms with his addiction.
Hello, my name is Andrew Sweigart, and I’m an addict.