Garry Winogrand: Photographer

The Master of Street Photography

Garry Winogrand Exhibit At The National Gallery Of Art
Robert Nickelsberg/Getty Images

Garry Winogrand is known as the master of street photography, otherwise known as candid shots of human life.

Early Life

New York City was a constant inspiration to Winogrand. The city's bustling city center and the diversity of its American population helped him to garner his signature style. While Winogrand is known for his expressive photography, this self-expression originally came in the form of painting.

The College Years

At age 20, Winogrand began his studies at the City College of New York where he focused on realistic portraiture. However, finding himself more interested in real life than artistic renderings of the subject, Winogrand decided to pursue photojournalism at Columbia University, where he went on to truly flourish. He took to the streets of New York almost daily to capture human life at its most rare and vulnerable states.

His Early Work

In the early 1960’s Winogrand earned accolades for displaying the struggles of American life in his work. He took part in an exhibition at the esteemed Museum of Modern Art (MOMA), where he showed alongside such notable photographers as Minor White and Jerome Liebling. Winogrand’s talent was brought to light. It was at this showing that Winogrand was able to make connections and what led to his career-changing show alongside photography great Diane Arbus.

Artistic Inspiration

Winogrand was heavily influenced by photographers like Walker Evans and Robert Frank. Evans' “American Photographs” was an intense documentation of life’s harsh and often grueling moments. Robert Frank's work, such as his collection “The Americans,” inspired Winogrand to showcase the isolated experiences of the average citizen and society in post-war America. Their unique perspectives helped hone the core principals that became the foundations of Garry Winogrand's work.

His Equipment

Winogrand worked with a 35mm Leica camera with a pre-focused wide angle lens. His style is characterized by his rapid-fire capture technique – taking many pictures within a short amount of time. It is this style that gave his work a deep sense of frantic energy. Film at the time was expensive, so most photographers made it their custom to wait for the perfect shot. Winogrand's devil-may-care approach evoked frenetic energy of the city life that had inspired him.

Conquering the Publishing World

The first publication by Winogrand is entitled, “The Animals.” This book, published in 1969, featured photos taken at the Bronx Zoo and Coney Island Aquarium in which Winogrand used the animals to display a visual similarity to human nature. His next book, “Public Relations,” released in 1977, encapsulated the distinctive relationship between a photographer and his subject. In 1980, a book entitled “Stock Photographs” was put together by Winogrand which profiled the evolution of public relations within the United States.

Recognized for his Talents

Thanks to his revealing street photography, people were able to connect with his art in a social context. Because of these heartfelt expressions, Winogrand earned numerous awards including three Guggenheim Fellowship Awards (1964, 1969, 1979) and a National Endowment of the Arts Award in 1979. In order to share his love of photography and the human condition with others, Winogrand began teaching at the University of Texas and the Art Institute of Chicago.

A Life Ended Early

Unfortunately, Winogrand’s life was cut short when in 1984, at the age of 56, he died of gallbladder cancer. This life, while short, was heavily influential in the world of photography and society as a whole. Thanks to Garry Winogrand’s constant capturing of his surroundings, many rolls of film have been found undeveloped within his collection. Some of these photos, along with his most notable ones, continue to travel the globe and influence generations to come.