In the middle of the 20th century, there were two photography exhibitions at The Museum of Modern Art that changed the way we see photography, and more fundamentally, the way we look at the world. The first, 1955’s “The Family of Man” curated by Edward Steichen, was, as the title suggests, aimed at using photography to showcase the universality of human experience. The second, 1967’s “New Documents” curated by John Szarkowski, was meant to showcase the opposite, focusing on the subjective, personal, interior potential of photography as an art form. Despite the two different approaches to photography, the two exhibitions had a number of similarities, including, but not limited to, the photographs of the great Garry Winogrand.
Winogrand is one of America’s most celebrated and prolific photographers – his work, like that of fellow photographer Robert Frank, offers a wide-ranging look into American life during the mid 20th century. Though many of Winogrand’s photographs focus on his native New York City, he used his three Guggenheim Fellowships to travel around the United States, bringing his sharp eye and incredible sense of composition to our sprawling country (Winogrand’s photograph, “Albuquerque, New Mexico, 1957” seems to me one of the finest visual metaphors for the United States ever taken – a quaint, suburban, domestic scene against the backdrop of a limitless and slightly ominous landscape; children, a nascent country, eternity).
Winogrand famously took an outrageous number of photographs, millions of them discovered uncategorized and unprocessed after his death in 1984. In the face of such an immense and diffuse body of work, it is both daunting and exciting to consider the number of masterpieces we have yet to see. There has yet to be a comprehensive overview of Winogrand’s unseen works. That is, until now.
Coming in early 2018 is a documentary by Sasha Waters Freyer, the chair of the department of photography and film at VCU School of the Arts, entitled “Garry Winogrand: All Things are Photographable.” Well, we hope it will come out in early 2018, but as of now, the film is still in the funding phase, having raised just under half of its $50,000 goal on Kickstarter (with some initial funding from the NEA, as if you needed any further reminder of its importance). The film brings together a massive trove of previously unseen Winogrand photographs and 8mm films as well as interviews from photographers, artists, and writers including, Laurie Simmons, and Matthew Weiner of “Mad Men.”
It’s a long overdue project and, should it (hopefully) be made, it will represent a huge leap forward in terms of understanding and unpacking one of the world’s greatest artists.