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Rediscovering Garry Winogrand’s long forgotten color work

Garry Winogrand (American, 1928-1984). Untitled (Cape Cod), 1966.
35mm color slide. Collection of the Center for Creative Photography,
The University of Arizona.

During the 1950s and ‘60s, Garry Winogrand made more than 45,000 color slides, socking away tens of thousands of unprinted images when he died. The Bronx native came from humble working class roots, where the journey — and not the end — was the purpose of his work. Winogrand photographed, and left an archive behind of the world seen through his streetwise eyes.

Known best for his black and white photographs that pioneered a snapshot aesthetic in fine art, Winogrand’s color work is now receiving its due in Garry Winogrand: Color at the Brooklyn Museum, now through December 8, 2019.

As the exhibition reveals, color was an ace in Winogrand’s hand. He was thoughtfully attuned to the vibrations that color imbued the image as a whole — as well as the way it enhanced our experience of the objects themselves. In his hands, color becomes a poem, a sonnet, an ode, a diddy bop that you can imagine Winogrand whistling while he worked making these photos.

Embedded in each image is the same slice of life: the immediacy of the moment captured then forever taken out of context. It is a particular sensation, Wingorand’s eye, a curious, inquisitive creep cruising the streets capturing scenes no one else is seeing when they are looking anyway. Winogrand places the pauses, the spaces in between the words, and uses color to punctuate the moment with potent emotional intensity.

Garry Winogrand (American, 1928-1984). Untitled (New York),
circa 1965. 35mm color slide. Collection of the Center for Creative
Photography, The University of Arizona. 

Here is the wonder of the mundane and banal, the quiet grandeur of simply being alive in the world, which comes alive in more than 400 rarely or never-before seen color photographs in the exhibition. Made on the streets of New York and across the United States, Winogrand’s photographs are candid portraits of mid-century America in its most unassuming self, lost in the business of going about one’s day.

Winogrand’s penchant for public life brought him to the places people went once upon a time before the Internet locked them into their phones. At a time long before the thought that someone would be recording you without your knowledge became reality. Winogrand cruised streets and highways, motels and theaters, fairgrounds and amusement parks in search of photographs no one ever saw — until now.

Garry Winogrand (American, 1928-1984). Untitled (New York),
1960. 35mm color slide. Collection of the Center for Creative
Photography, The University of Arizona. 

Garry Winogrand (American, 1928-1984). Untitled (New York),
1960. 35mm color slide. Collection of the Center for Creative
Photography, The University of Arizona.

Garry Winogrand (American, 1928-1984). Untitled (Coney Island),
1952-58. 35mm color slide. Collection of the Center for Creative
Photography, The University of Arizona. 

Garry Winogrand (American, 1928-1984). Untitled (New York),
1967. 35mm color slide. Collection of the Center for Creative
Photography, The University of Arizona. 

Garry Winogrand (American, 1928-1984). Untitled (New York),
circa 1965. 35mm color slide. Collection of the Center for Creative
Photography, The University of Arizona.

Garry Winogrand (American, 1928-1984). Untitled (Texas), 1964.
35mm color slide. Collection of the Center for Creative
Photography, The University of Arizona. 

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

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