Sunday, May 26, 2013

Where is Winogrand?

I visited the Garry Winogrand exhibition at SFMOMA four times and I found less in the exhibition each time I went to see it. But I think its biggest problem is that so much of it was work Winogrand never saw or more likely would have never wanted the public to see.

I think a lot of his photography was for no one but himself. I don't believe he would ever have intended much of that work to be put on public view.

I also think curators are failing to understand that he used photography to serve many purposes in his life. It will take considerable effort to distill his images into the work of "Garry Winogrand, Photographer" and put the rest of his images into an archive for the biographers and psychoanalysts to use in their research. No one has attempted that yet. Admirers and groupies are still trying to figure out how much of a pedestal they can prop him up on.

Even Rubinfien admitted that in the course of putting together the SFMOMA exhibition he realized that Winogrand's best work was done in the 50s & 60s. The amount of work he did is simply too overwhelming to get a clear picture of who Winogrand actually was as a photographer. But I think a hint of it creeps through in the current exhibition. Sadly that hint is given in only about five or six images in the show, but it's enough to make me think of Winogrand's photography as more of an archaeology project than anything else.

There's a lot of crap to dig through to get to the true and the meaningful. I keep thinking it's like an accordion player on Fisherman's Wharf who goes home to his baby grand and works on writing a symphony. That symphony may be performed only a few times and the sheet music ends up lost in the piles sheet music for accordion. Or the poet who writes romance novels for a living. Winogrand could make good pictures, good compositions, moving images. But he was also an unhappy middle aged divorced man who got his kicks taking sneaky pictures of women and girls. Miroslav Tichý was made famous for that simply because that's all he did.

This is a tough one. I'm still wondering where is Winogrand the photographer in all this. He's in there some where. We just can't see him yet.

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