"Garry Winogrand 1964": International Center of Photography, New York. (Reviews)

By Nickas, Bob | Artforum International, January 2003 | Go to article overview

"Garry Winogrand 1964": International Center of Photography, New York. (Reviews)


Nickas, Bob, Artforum International


How often have you taken a picture that's not at all what you'd seen? This never happened to Garry Winogrand. Or it happened all the time. He knew that "the photograph isn't what was photographed. It's something else. It's a new fact." Winogrand never staged anything. He had a restless nature, a restless eye, and was so often on the move that he almost always managed to be in the right place at the right time. In the fall of '63 he applied for, and received, a Guggenheim fellowship, intending to drive cross-country and take pictures along the way. He was propelled as much by a need to be in motion as by his despair at the state of the world. In the statement of intent he'd written: "I look at the pictures I have done up to now, and they make me feel that who we are and how we feel and what is to become of us just doesn't matter." But at the close of his statement he would stake his claim: "I cannot accept my conclusions, and so I must continue this photographic investigation further and deeper. This is my pro ject." Within a month, the president would be dead, and Winogrand was soon in a car headed west. Forty years later, the selection of images in this show takes us along for the ride.

In a picture from Lake Tahoe, vacationers relax poolside behind a frieze of transparent yellow and blue panels held between a parked red car and a motel sign above. A smaller sign, with a silhouette of a stagecoach and horses and the phrase TALLY HO, is surrounded by blue sky and tall pines, and the country's pioneer spirit hovers over this newly mobile leisure class. America as theme park and our notion of an all-encompassing image world were well on the way. Again and again in 1964 Winogrand is taking pictures of people taking pictures. At football games and state fairs, at national landmarks and sometimes just out in the middle of nowhere. When he stands across from the "grassy knoll" in Dallas, what does he see? Tourists with cameras examining a postcard of the Texas School Book Depository against the actual scene. He wasn't alone in his restlessness, but as he catches others in passing, he identifies how escapism and a troubled mind are somehow entwined, and how they define us still.

On a warm night in Houston, when Winogrand is looking down from a hotel window at a woman afloat in a luminous pool below, so are we. He makes the camera seem to disappear and redefines being there. His is an art of consciousness, of life lived as well as recalled: every image an after-image, his eye both highly focused and nomadic. At the time of Winogrand's death, in 1984, he left behind more than three hundred thousand pictures he'd shot and never even looked at! …

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