Being There: Garry Winogrand at the Met

© The Estate of Garry Winogrand, courtesy Fraenkel Gallery, San Francisco

© The Estate of Garry Winogrand, courtesy Fraenkel Gallery, San Francisco

Garry Winogrand was a sheer force of nature for whom a Leica was an essential body part. He singularly exemplified Sarah Greenough’s observation in The Mystery of the Visible:  “The Leica was hailed as a machine that seamlessly merged hand, eye and mind.” For a glimpse of Winogrand’s voraciously curious mind visit the touring retrospective on view at the Metropolitan Museum of Art where one hundred and seventy-five of his luminous silver gelatin prints form a visual roller coaster ride.

Winogrand was less interested in answers or reflection, he urgently froze moments, relishing the ambiguos, mocking any attempt on the viewers part to edit, codify or contain the expanse of our human experience. He shot ferociously and framed off-kilter. He held form above content, inciting an active debate and tension between these two dynamics by pushing our focus to the photo’s edge, emphasizing shape and shadow to insure we experience looking in while remaining outside.

Winogrand developed 26,000 rolls of film over 34 years and died with 250,000 negatives unseen by his eyes. Several posthumous selections are included in the show. Also on display are glimpses of his intensely-lived life in the form of an angry letter from his second wife admonishing him for his denial of unpaid bills and taxes while ignoring her desire to start a family. Photos by equally acclaimed photographer and close friend, Tod Papageorge, catch personal and professional moments, including the unlikely moment of Winogrand taking the now iconic image of the couple holding chimps in the Central Park Zoo. The experience of seeing this small sample of Winogrand’s zealous photographic pursuit leaves the viewer in the same state as a ride on the Coney Island Cyclone; disoriented, exhilarated and eager to do it again.

The Garry WInogrand exhibition is on display until 9/21/14 at The Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York

Post by J. Sybylla Smith

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