Rough draft of my notes from the Winogrand exhibit and Tod Papageorge’s talk


Before Winogrand started using mainly WA lenses, he still tended to get quite close with his normals. This suggests that close perspective is primary for Winogrand, and that the wide AOV is a secondary adaptation.

It seems like Winogrand places heavy emphasis on facial expression, over composition or body language. Everyone always seems to be right in the middle of a grimace, a frown, a laugh, etc. this is true with babies as much as with adults, and often with animals as well.

Even with the positive expressions — smiles, laughter — there is a harshness or extremity that can be quite unsettling. Given the usually everyday context, one gets the feeling that Winogrand is catching people just as they are revealing something real about themselves that most people would not notice.

Reactions are frequently — perhaps in the vast majority of cases — to action outside the frame.

Almost 7,000 of Winogrand’s images he never saw — these represent most of his production in the lsat 6 years of his life.

W: “There is nothing so mysterious as a fact clearly described.”

Is it safe to say Winogrand is more existential, less structuralist than Frank?

The “girls gone wild” photo is fantastic.

Winogrand’s magazine photography seems to have been (comparatively) awful.

Some of the photos of women, the homeless, etc. I would definitely judge to be ethically out of bounds.

Is it just me or does the guy in this Dallas, 1964 photo like the killer Avedon photographed?

Adrienne Lubeau diary, 1/1/1960: “We have so many friends who love us.” (AL was Winorand’s first of three wives)

Winogrand, in Gugenheim application:

I can only conclude that we have lost ourselves, and that the bomb may finish the job permanently, and it doesn’t matter, we have not loved life. I cannot accept my conclusions, and so I must continue this photographic investigation further and deeper.

Winogrand emphasizes his readership of the news — this reminds of that by…Mike Rose? In which he mentions the role of the newspaper in the intellectual life of the working class.

The tossed fish in Long Island 1968 is awesome.

“That clown is me.” re: his photo of a rodeo clown fleeing a bull.

The 80’s stuff is harsh as fuck.

Talk / Leo Rubinfein (sp?) intro:

I found LR’s intro pretty off-putting.

LR highlights TP as an intellectual vs. Winogrand as a “tradesman.” He also asserts that TP showed GW the “gravity” of “what he himself was doing.”

Talk / Tod Papageorge

TP opened with an anecdote about GW in therapy — that he was told to hit a pillow and then asked, “What are you thinking about.” GW answered, “I’m trying to hit as squarely, precisely, and with as much force as I can.” The therapist said, “You mean you’re not thinking about your mother?”

He follows up with a passage from Kafka comparing the process of hammering table to Kafka’s writing process.

“Could anything in photography be bolder, could it be surer…and could it be more senseless?”

“The presence of the author becomes invisible…” / “Senseless in a sense.”

“Only if the self is more and more in the background can a body of work like this be profound.”

“Almost Buddhist sense of vocation”

“…Polio survivor and dropout transformed himself into a man for the ages.”

“…apparent inability to deal with things except through facts and more facts.”

“A man whose habit was to trust his fascinations.”

“Would have preferred being an opera singer, the only occupation he mentioned that way.” (cf. Journey to the End of Taste?)

“Although great photographers are few, women…” I didn’t catch the phrasing, but he thought that women were disproportionately represented among great photographers.

GW on Atget: “He knew where to stand.”

GW on Walker Evans: “It was the first time I was aware that photographs themselves could describe intelligence.”

TP: “He always said that photography saved him, that without it he would have ended up in jail or worse.”

GW practiced photography “with the physical flair of the athletes he admired.”

Lovely anecdote about a woman seeing GW and co. with their cameras and exclaiming, “Oh, shutterbugs” to which GW replied, “and what are you, the DDT?”

GW: “If I had any gift, it was for dealing with what photographs look like.” (Note: not sure I got the phrasing right on that.)

TP compares GW’s photographs of animals to the “zoo photographs” of the day — i.e., proto-lolcats/advice animals. TP basically says that Winogrand was transforming that genre of photo.

TP describe the Winogrand cant as “a sign that something is becoming” and “a kind of visual carbonation.”

…”a profound difference between the moment (and what it stirs in the camera) and…” what is recorded in the printed photograph.

“Have I already mentioned Buddhism tonight? I think that walrus is our Buddhist master.”

“One has to say that it is the product of some kind of luck, although luck seems to come more often to some photographers…”

“I know I could die, I didn’t die, I know I’m nothing, therefore I’m free.” – TP summarizing GW’s attitude to the Cuban missile crisis. Referencing Auden essay “I without a Self”? Or, in photographic terms, “Eye without a self.”

GW, of dogs in the street outside a gallery: “They’re the best people here.”

TP describes GW’s “commitment to the experience of life as being an animal.”

TP thinks GW saw jailed animals as a reflection of himself.

“Don’t drop your camera. That’s my first rule of photography. In fact, that’s my only rule of photography.”

GW on food: “No one murders eggs, and almost no one will murder fried chicken.”

GW resp. to a question re: how many pictures it takes to get a great one: “Art is not a matter of industrial efficiency.”

How much of GW’s work “resides in the power of the physical gesture.”

In Bresson, “the form is always working on being canonical,” while GW’s gestures break away from the canonical.

GW: “All great work is the result of great labor.”

TP compares GW’s teaching style to Socrates

“A faultless unity of mind and feeling.”

TP: “Forced to ask almost word by word, ‘what do you mean by that.'”

Re: chimps: Winogrand shoved TP out of the way because he was “ravenous” for that photo.

GW’s writer hero was Norman Mailer

TP describing GW’s Times Square photo: “It’s hard to believe it, and the thing about photography is that we must believe it.”

“One is venturing into very treacherous territory to look at a contact sheet of [GW’s] and imagine that he missed a picture.” Talking about prints for the exhibition made from negatives which GW contacted but did not mark as worth printing. TP mentions that GW would not print photos that reminded him too much of photos someone else had made or of other photos he had made.

GW tested developer temp with his finger instead of a thermometer. TP describes this as “loony.”

GW developed partly by inspection.

To GW, mere puns were as “dangerous as lethal weapons,” because language is life.

“‘Too much is enough’ proved adequate, or in Winolinguo, ‘aqueduct.'”

GW: “I’m not talking about suicide, but I’d just as soon not exist.”

TP compares the difficult aspect of GW’s photography to TS Eliot on the “unpleasantness of great poetry” (i.e., Aeschylus/Dante) – “a provocative and difficult kind of content” — and this particularly characterizes GW’s “Stock Photographs” (photos made it livestock auctions?)”

TP has “mixed feelings about the photographs being edited by someone other than Garry.”

“The impersonality of the camera becomes the meaning of the pictures” — thus their unpleasantness.

“Haunting these photographs is the ghost of a great theory” — this is a lovely passage, but unfortunately I couldn’t manage to transcribe the rest.

GW is “a great poet of the Actual.”

GW: “A photograph is the illusion of a literal description.”

TP: GW considered NY his “mother nature.”

TP made an interesting slip: “teaching cancer,” for “treating.”

GW on traveling to Mexico for experimental (and ultimately unsuccesful) cancer treatment: “I’m going to Mexico to fight the bull.”

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