Near the top of almost any list of the all time greatest photographers you’re certain to see the name: Garry Winogrand. While there’s a chance you may not know his name it often appears on those lists above such famous photographers as Ansel Adams and Annie Leibovitz. After attending the press preview of a new exhibit of his photography I now know why.
Working in the tumultuous postwar decades, Winogrand captured moments of everyday American life, producing an expansive picture of a nation rich with possibility yet threatening to spin out of control. He did much of his best-known work in New York City in the 1960s, but he also traveled widely around the United States, from California and Texas to Miami and Chicago. Combining hope and buoyancy with anxiety and instability, his photographs trace the mood of the country itself, from the ebullience of the postwar optimism to the chaos of the 1960s and the gloom and depression of the post-Vietnam era. – From the Winogrand Exhibition Highlights (press release)
“Garry Winogrand” is an extraordinary photography exhibit opening to the public on March 2, 2014 at the National Gallery of Art in Washington, DC. After a successful showing at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, the exhibit will be in the US capital city until June 8. After it’s run at the National Gallery of Art the exhibit will be moving to New York before heading to Europe.
It would be easy for me to share some of the approved pictures in an article and to say: “Go see this exhibit” but seeing a few pictures here is nothing like walking through the eight rooms and moving through history with this incredible photographer. As someone who earns a living as a full-time photographer it was so much more than a display of framed prints. While each image could be described as a masterpiece it’s only when you see a group of prints together that you begin to discover the entire story of Garry.
On February 26 I attended a press preview for the Winogrand Exhibit where I meet two of the curators for the National Gallery of Art. Sarah Greenough, Senior Curator and Head Department of Photographs for the National Gallery of Art, began the preview with some opening remarks about the exhibit.
Working with Sarah is photographer and Guest Curator Leo Rubinfein. Leo was part of the circle of younger photographers who were associated with Winogrand and his presentation was enlightening as well and entertaining.
Sarah and Leo did a great job of introducing me to Garry and his unique style of street photography. I learned how Winogrand: “captured moments of everyday American life, producing an expansive picture of a nation rich with possibility yet threatening to spin out of control. He did much of his best-known work in New York City in the 1960s, but he also traveled widely around the United States, from California and Texas to Miami and Chicago. Combining hope and buoyancy with anxiety and instability, his photographs trace the mood of the country itself, from the ebullience of the postwar optimism to the chaos of the 1960s and the gloom and depression of the post-Vietnam era.”
It was during the opening remarks I discovered how Garry unexpectedly passed away at 56 years old leaving behind approximately 250,000 images he’d never even seen. Because he delayed editing his images they were largely unexamined for years. For this exhibition hundreds of iconic images are on display including over 100 which have never before been printed.
Leo is scheduled to give an opening lecture in the East Building Auditorium at 2:00pm on March 2nd and after hearing him at the press preview I’d highly recommend attending. I’ll be there and his remarks will be part of a follow-up article I’m preparing on the exhibit.
After hearing the opening remarks we made our way over to the exhibit and It didn’t take long to see the immense amount of work the curators put into the exhibit.
The Winogrand Exhibit
Located on the ground floor of the west building you begin outside the exhibit by reading the huge introductions that flank the entrance to the first room of his work.
You then enter the first of eight rooms which tell the story of America as seen through the lens of Gary Winogrand. In addition to the framed prints you’ll find introductions on the walls and display cases filled with rare pictures of Garry, original contact sheets (complete with his notations) and numerous one-of-a-kind artifacts.
As a digital photographer who spends a considerable amount of time reviewing color images on a computer screen I was instantly reminded of what a different experience it is to see real (framed) black and white prints. There’s just no comparison. The bright LCD of of my monitor may be great for editing but it’s certainly not the best way to truly enjoy a finished image.
But the Garry Winogrand exhibition experience is more than seeing some framed prints of incredible images. It’s about seeing a large group of framed prints that together tell a story of America. It doesn’t take long to recognize that the collection was put together by curators who understand how to showcase a photographers work.
In room after room you can clearly see the evolution of Garry’s street photography. Since so many of the prints were created without his input you can also wonder if what we’re seeing is truly what he would have wanted us to see.
One of the highlights for me came in room 6 where an interview with Garry was projected onto a large screen. Visitors can sit down and hear Garry talk on a range of subjects that really helped put the exhibit into context. As a photographer this room really resonated with me.
As you come to the end of the exhibit you’re left with a better appreciation for street photography, American history and Garry Winogrand. Having seen some of his images I knew he was an amazing photographer but when you get to see hundreds of his images together you begin to understand his work in it’s entirety. The only downside to exiting the exhibit is how you’re left wondering what he might have created if he hadn’t passed away so young.
The Gary Winogrand exhibit opens in Washington, DC on March 2, 2014 and will run until June 8, 2014.
To find out more visit the official website of the National Gallery of Art’s official exhibit page:
or you can call the National Gallery of Art at: (202) 737-4215
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