Master Of Photography: Garry Winogrand

Garry Winogrand at Rice University

Visions and Images: Garry Winogrand, 1981

Garry Winogrand MIT Q&A with Winogrand Photographs

The following transcript of this talk came from this page.
Garry Winogrand speaking at MIT in 1974

This is a recording of Garry Winogrand speaking at MIT in 1974. Garry is introduced by Tod Papageorge.

[Papageorge]: ...we’re all here, and on behalf of the University of Massachusetts, I’d like to remind those of you that don’t know, that tomorrow night,

Walker Evans is speaking in Boston, at the Arlington Street branch of that school. I think that begins at eight-o-clock.
I’ll warn you right now that I’m the lecture part of the night, and Garry is the beauty part, and I’m going to read something which I’ve written, which as I reread it now, seems a little too serious in terms of the people who are here, but [CROWD LAUGHTER] but it’s the only thing I’ve written.
Photography has always suffered from a facile and generally uninformed criticism, or critical opinion, and those of you who have seen the recent issue of Newsweek Magazine would have to agree. The wonder is that in spite of this, a few photographers, in each generation, have worked to discover and employ the fact and the beauty of photography itself. Which is to say a photography without captions, without metaphysics, a photography without apology.
This process of discovery, could I think, be characterized as an act of passion attracting intelligence, or of intelligence attracting passion. That point is that both of these qualities share in what is produced, and that they have in some photographers, who have tried their energies long enough, define, and practice, the discipline that photography demands.

I think that Garry Winogrand is one of these photographers, and that an open eye, considering the force and accuracy of his photographs, and the description they contain of our present moment, would have to know that even by Shakespeare’s antique but stringent axiom, they give the very age and body of the time to form an impression.

This is to suggest that not only do these photographs attempt to describe the world in a way that a classic tradition of poetry had described it, but also that they are serious and accomplished. If they appear to be casual, it is because they are meant to. Their mastery resides in just such an appearance.
The wit, humour, and strangeness that they hold are in some un-analyzable way, the expression of a man, named Garry Winogrand. But that his pictures are clear enough, and precise enough to surprise or possibly instruct us, is a measure of how well a photographer, named Garry Winogrand, has practiced his work.

And with that, I introduce to you, Garry Winogrand.


[Winogrand]: I don’t have a lecture, so, what I’m going to do, you know… any time anybody… I’m going to be here and if anybody at anytime has anything on their minds, ask a question, or whatever, and we’ll see what happens afterward.

[Audience Member]: Why do you take a particular picture?

[Winogrand]: Generally, I mean you can answer the question this generally, I probably just take every picture just to see what something looks like photographed. But why I aim at particular things, I haven’t the vaguest idea what. I mean that’s science, that you’ve got to lay down on a couch for.


[Audience Member]: Do you carry your camera around religiously? Or do you...


[Winogrand]: Do you mean am I now? I generally have a camera with me, sure. I don’t have one with me now.

[Audience Member]: What about the games that you play while you’re shooting? What happens when someone catches you catching them? Ahh…

[Winogrand]: Look, I’m not invisible...

[Audience Member]: I realize that, but in spite of the question…

[Winogrand]: Look, I do it a great deal. And I’d say that it just about never happens that anybody objects. Just about never.

[Audience Member]: More than just being invisible though, like you began to talk about those games, uhm… some photographers uhm,… play on the fact that they are quite visible, and the fact that there is a camera between the photographer and the photographed, or subject/object. I don’t know how you want to look at that, but the fact that the photographer does have a camera in his hands, and is photographing it, and how the subject reacts to that is an interesting subject in its own right, and that’s something that rarely shows up there...

[Winogrand]: What’s the question?


[Audience Member]: Aaah, what’s your. What are your thoughts on those games…

[Winogrand]: Which games?

[Audience Member]: The games we were talking about…

[Winogrand]: You mean when there’s somebody’s looking at…. their reactions to me or not?

[Audience Member]: Yeah, yeah

[Winogrand]: It depends on what… it depends on specific instances what’s…how it looks, you know? It just depends…. each thing has its own specific problem.

[Audience Member]: Did anybody ever grab your camera?

[Winogrand]: Excuse me?

[Audience Member]: Did anyone ever grab out camera?

[Winogrand]: It’s funny. It happened here in Cambridge a couple of years ago.

[Winogrand]: There was. It was one of those moratorium days, and there was a thing down in the commons in Boston during the day, and there was all sorts of action up here. I got gassed, I’m sure I’m not the only one but, I was wearing one camera with a flash and some kid grabbed at it, and wound up holding the flash in his hands with the wires wrapped around his fingers and I just said, “let go or I’ll kill you.”

[Winogrand]:And he let go! That’s what happened. He probably figured I wasn’t kidding.

[Audience Member]: When are you going to publish all of this as a book?

[Winogrand]: (Laughs) I have no plans. Ah,…

[Audience Member]: You said you were, the last time you were here that you were working on a book. Is that why you haven’t got a new thing from the last … you said that these slides are…

[Audience Member]: How do you make a living?

[Winogrand]: I’m teaching.

[Audience Member]: Are you working on a book? Or is there a book that might be published?

[Winogrand]: There’s a book coming out, I’m not working on it. I’m out of it, in general.

[Audience Member]: Who is going to publish it?

[Winogrand]: What?

[Audience Member]: Who is going to publish it?

[Winogrand]: ?

[Audience Member]: How do you feel about your pictures?

[Winogrand]: Well, you know… some of them are a bit more interesting than others.

[Winogrand]: What?

[Audience Member]: I mean, do you generally like your pictures that you print?

[Winogrand]: The one’s I’m interested in, I’m interested in. If I’m, you know, it’s a funny process. I mean, when I’ve got contacts I enlarge in terms of what I’m interested in seeing bigger. And then I find out when I have… they’re work prints, I make mostly work prints. I mean, I don’t make finished prints for me. Most of these slides are made from work prints. But, when I’ve got work prints, then I can find out what I’m interested in, that’s all.

[Audience Member]: How do you feel about your old pictures? Like, you know…

[Winogrand]: That’s what I’m talking about.

[Audience Member]: Alright. Aah, do you still like them?.

[Winogrand]: The one’s I’m interested in, I’m interested in. That’s “all” I can say.

[Winogrand]: You know, we were talking about… talking about that business of. I said something about “games,” you know, when you’re shooting, in terms of people seeing you, whatever, however. There are all kinds of games you can play. I do, when I’m shooting. Aah, I sort of take advantage of… people, generally, are innocent about how a camera operates. I can aim a camera at people, and if I look like I’m giving my attention over there, they don’t think that I’m taking their picture. It’s fascinating. There’s a lot of things, you know, that you can do. You work out methods. I’m sure anybody would.

[Audience Member]: When you see something that you photograph, do you often take more than one exposure?

[Winogrand]: I exploit a thing as much as I can.

[Audience Member]: When you first started taking pictures, did you try to emulate anybody’s style?

[Winogrand]: No, that’s not the way it works. You do find out who you learn from, you know, you do learn from somebody’s works. Somebody asked me about Robert Frank. I think I learned a great deal from his work. It’s not a question of trying to make Robert Frank’s pictures, but it sort of like it can be a key to dealing with your own headaches, what you learn from somebody else.

[Audience Member]: Who is it you were influenced by the most?

[Winogrand]: Well, I, like, you know, there’s just too many. First there’s Walker Evans, and then there’s Robert Frank. I mean, very immediately.

[Audience Member]: You talk about taking a number of frames sometimes of a given thing. Do you find yourself sometimes experimenting with different angles? As I see, you know, you often take things at a lot of angles. Do you work at that? Or is it just how it happens?

[Winogrand]: No, not really. Aah, there’s reasons why I do things like that, but, you know, when you have a situation that’s in flux, you know, things start happening. Basically, the real problem it to try to, in a sense, to try to show it as well as you can. You can only know so much of what you’re getting while you’re shooting. At least, I’m talking about me.

[Audience Member]: You used the word, “interesting,” to describe the way you felt about the pictures. That’s a little vague. I’d like to…

[Winogrand]: The next thing I would say, is what I mean by that is, if there’s something in a photo, let’s say if I can learn in a photograph something about photography, that’s what makes it interesting. Don’t ask me what that is precisely.

[Audience Member]: So it’s different from liking it.

[Winogrand]: It’s not a question of liking….

[Audience Member]: I’m saying it’s different..

[Winogrand]: Really, its not a question.

[Audience Member]: Yeah, it means what I said…

[Winogrand]: It just doesn’t occur to me, the word. Ok.

[Audience Member]: Ok, no, that’s just fine.

[Audience Member]: How much time do you usually spend on a final print?

[Winogrand]: What do you mean? When I make a finished print?

[Audience Member]: Yeah

[Winogrand]: As long it takes. I mean it could be 2 or 3 pieces of paper. You know, it doesn’t take long.

[Audience Member]: Do you sell many photographs?

[Winogrand]: Anybody want to buy?

[Winogrand]: I don’t sell a lot of prints, no.

[Audience Member]: Do you ever have other people do your printing for you?

[Winogrand]: As often as possible.

[Winogrand]: Well, I don’t know about other photographers. I know Bresson does it, and I don’t think it makes any difference. As far as myself goes, all I want is an open print. Any competent printer can print for me. There’s not a game of interpretation. There’s no. The only decision is to, is to try to keep it as open as possible. Yeah, if I could afford it. I enjoy printing, but I’m always behind. I shoot a lot, and if I could afford it, I would have somebody printing for me. It’s only collectors, you know, that make a deal out of the photographer getting his hands on the tray, or whatever.

[Winogrand]: If you want it signed, twenty gain. Seriously, it has very little to do with a lot of things.

[Audience Member]: Do you do much experimenting with films and developer combinations, or is it kind of standardized at this point?

[Winogrand]: No, I mean ahh, I use a 76, and I spray with a replenisher. I use Tri-X, an excellent film. Aah, I learned, aah, I’ve doctored a 76 somewhat. I don’t fool around much.

[Audience Member]: What is the role of accident and chance in your work?

[Winogrand]: Maybe 99%.

[Winogrand]: You know, I mean there are a lot of surprises in the frame. God bless them! I mean, you know, let’s face it, a surprise functions in a lot of ways. You can, aah, if I were taking pictures of this room, at any given time, or you know, or any time I make an exposure, where’s my attention? My attention isn’t all-over, really. You know, if my attention is there, I don’t know what you’re doing, I’ll find out when I see the print. No? I mean I can make a decision, let’s say, as to where the edges are, but at some, you know at any point in shooting, I can know what’s going in. but I find out, you know, you win/you lose.

[Audience Member]: Are you doing any (something) photography?

[Winogrand]: I photograph, it’s all the same. I photograph where I am, that’s what it amounts to.

[Audience Member]: How do you get somewhere?

[Winogrand]: I mean, I go!

[Winogrand]: No, I mean, most of the time I’m in cities.

[Audience Member]: Do you have a favorite place?

[Winogrand]: Where I am!

[Winogrand]: No, the question is funny. Look, I’m a New Yorker, and when I’m not in New York, it turn out that I’m always in another city.

[Winogrand]: You know, I just saw some pictures where. Oh what is it? There’s some seagulls and some fish tails and what. You know, I’m up to a point. You know, what do you do?

[Audience Member]: What percentage of your exposures do you find interesting?

[Winogrand]: It depends again on what you shoot.

[Audience Member]: No, I mean like how many out of a roll?

[Winogrand]: You’ve got to deal with a specific situation. You know, you saw some slides, I said it was the Metropolitan Museum of Arts, and you only saw about 5 slides. I can show 20 slides. It was a very productive evening. You’ve got to deal with a specific situation. That’s the only way I could answer the question.

[Audience Member]: You don’t feel that the photographs that you make, aah, make statements about the subjects which could be dishonest? Or do you think that the camera never lies?

[Winogrand]: Ahh, I don’t know. Again, I don’t know what the truth is.

[Audience Member]: Well, do you have a sense that you’re being unfair?

[Winogrand]: Let’s put it this way. Coming right down to it, a photograph is its own reality, it has no relation. You know, really, once the photograph exists, it has no relation to what was photographed.

[Audience Member]: How long is it since…?

[Winogrand]: This is 74, so at least 20-years, something like that. At least, I mean more, I’m sure.

[Audience Member]: When you go out shooting, about how many exposures do you make?

[Winogrand]: Once again. It’s really the same question she asked. Saturday, I photographed at the SMU Texas game. I shot 15 rolls of film! I don’t do that every day. Again, you’ve got to talk about a specific day.

[Audience Member]: Can you say anything about how your book, The Animals, came about? You know, there was a theme that developed…How did that come about?

[Winogrand]: …It’s a funny business. It’s a compulsion. I wind up, I’m weak, you know, if I see an attractive woman, Ill try to take a picture. It’s the same way really, it’s funny. Is that… compulsions? Did I answer your question at all?

[Audience Member]: A little bit, yeah.

[Audience Member]: Does your work clarify your compulsions?

[Winogrand]: No, you just wind up with pictures, that’s all you do.

[Winogrand]: I’m talking at least for me. I wind up with pictures.

[Audience Member]: Nothing more?

[Winogrand]: Huh? That’s all there is. That’s why I take pictures, no?

[Audience Member]: Do you feel you don’t have much to tell? Ahh…

[Audience Member]: What I’m trying to say is, I mean would you just rather show the pictures and answer what film you use and what camera, and then go?

[Winogrand]: No, I mean, well, not necessarily.

[Audience Member]: I mean, I assume you are getting paid.

[Winogrand]: What?

[Audience Member]: I assume you are getting paid.

[Winogrand]: Of course.

[Audience Member]: I mean when…

[Audience Member]: I mean, when you are answering these questions. I get the impression that you’re, that you’re answering as if the questions weren’t too important to you.

[Winogrand]: No, I mean, I think I’m giving every question. I’m trying to understand the question and answer the question as clearly as possible.

[Audience Member]: Ok.

[Winogrand]: You know, its no problem to me.

[Audience Member]: I mean I realize it’s not a problem. It’s a matter of interest thing I mean.

[Winogrand]: I am interested, I mean, to be here, really.

[Audience Member]: Ok.

[Winogrand]: Beyond, err, I mean I could very well read something. Write something then read it, and that would be it.

[Audience Member]: Yeah,

[Audience Member]: …. Now, as a photographer, the back-level of a photograph, I mean the reality of what’s being photographed is important top me. Not to say that there are not other things going on as well, but that’s very important to me and I have a sense from looking at your work that it’s important to you too. If you could speak about that a little bit I would appreciate it.

[Winogrand]: There’s all kinds of diction.

[Audience Member]: Well if the photograph has no relationship to what’s being photographed, uhm, what does the information…

[Winogrand]: A photograph, in the end has to be rational.

[Audience Member]: Ok

[Winogrand]: Just simply that. It doesn’t necessarily. You know, it doesn’t necessarily have to mimic the light, contrast, etc. in what was photographed, but it does have to be rational in itself. It has to be rational and complete. You know…

[Audience Member]: Does that mean it does not have to have a relationship with what was in front of the camera?

[Winogrand]: It has no relationship. There is a seeming paradox functioning. There is a seeming paradox functioning, because while it is the illusion of a literal description, of what was photographed, you know, you can’t know anything…

[Audience Member]: No it’s not, literally….

[Winogrand]: It’s the illusion of a literal description of let’s say, ok let’s say complete it….

[Audience Member]: That doesn’t have anything to do with….

[Winogrand]: Wait a minute. Let me, let me finish now. It’s the illusion of a literal description that the camera saw. That’s what you get. While it is that, from it, you can know very little. It has no narrative ability. You don’t know what happened, not from the photograph.

[Audience Member]: I know exactly….

[Winogrand]: You don’t know what happened. You know how a piece of time and space “looks,” to a camera. But it has to be rational. It has to compel you to dispel your disbelief, because it’s a lie! It’s reduced, it’s black and white, it’s two dimensional, and it’s a lie. If there is such a thing as truth, it’s a lie.

[Audience Member]: At what point in your photographic career did you become fascinated with this lie. I mean, I recall for example, in the Family of Man, you have a photograph I think of a girl being held up at the beach, in which I sense…

[Winogrand]: No, carried! “Held up,” sounds, you know…

[Audience Member]: … there’s a sense in that picture of what….you seem to be more fascinated with the lie, or the reality, or whatever by itself, without any preconceptions. I’m just curious at what point in your life does that change come. Do you recognize? Am I pointing out something that you think you could...?

[Winogrand]: I don’t know. With the picture you are talking about, I don’t; know of what you’re saying about it is so really. That’s not the point though. I don’t know at what point I began to understand anything about what actually was going on, about why photographs were interesting. I don’t really know when I started giving any of it thought. You don’t really have to, you know. You don’t have to understand anything about, in these terms, to make photographs. But I don’t know when I started trying to be articulate about “why” photographs are interesting, why anything happens, if it’s of any interest. I just don’t know.

[Audience Member]: When you take photographs, do you find yourself staying n one place, studying what is going on around you, or do you find yourself more or less moving with what’s going on?

[Winogrand]: Both. Let’s say if I have to make an appointment with somebody, to meet, I almost always make appointments to meet outdoors, with a contingency it it’s raining. Mainly because I don’t want to be bothered if anybody is late. And s if I’m hanging around a place, I can photograph. I mean, it works a million different ways.

[Audience Member]: So you don’t find yourself sitting back and studying situations and waiting for a particular moment.

[Winogrand]:.Rarely, rarely. I mean, I really don’t have an imagination, you know, it comes down to that. I really don’t, so I can’t work that way, as a rule.

[Audience Member]: What do you mean by imagination?

[Winogrand]:. Well, you know, I could be looking at this wall, ok? And in terms of what he’s discussing, maybe I think that aah, this apropos, that if somebody was sitting there, if I wait until somebody is sitting there, then it is going to be interesting, I don’t know! I don’t think, I don’t function that way. I think that’s what you’re talking about. I don’t function that way.

[Audience Member]: Well, if you see something interesting, and you happen to miss it, and you think it might occur again, do you wait around?

[Winogrand]: I would, certainly. I would want to try a shot, if there was a chance, and I had time and whatever. Sure.

[Audience Member]: What do you think of Friedlander’s photographs?

[Winogrand]: I think he’s doing some good work. He’s a very good photographer, and he seems to be getting better and better.

[Audience Member]: What are your favorite TV shows?

[Winogrand]: I don’t have any.

[Audience Member]: Do you think color can do what black and white is doing in terms of impact?

[Winogrand]: Certainly. Why not?

[Audience Member]: Have you shot much in color?

[Winogrand]: Yeah. I don’t do much now, but I have.

[Audience Member]: Frank went from black & white to do films. Do you intend to…

[Winogrand]: No, I have no ambition.

[Winogrand]: If that’s what that it. I think that’s the way the question sounds, usually. None.

[Audience Member]: What are you trying to do with your photography?

[Winogrand]: What do you do with it?

[Winogrand]: What’s your question?

[Audience Member]: Ok, let me think of a better way to put it. What are you trying to express with your photography?

[Winogrand]: I’m only trying to learn about photography, that’s all, that’s all.

[Audience Member]: So if you take pictures and people like them, that’s fine.

[Winogrand]: It has nothing to do with people liking them, it has to do with what I can learn.

[Audience Member]: I mean, are you trying to say something with them?

[Winogrand]: Did you hear what I said? I answered your question.

[Winogrand]: I have nothing to say, you know, and with pictures, certainly. Am I making any sense to you at all?

[Audience Member]: Say it again.

[Winogrand]: I’m trying to learn about photography. The thing itself fascinates me.

[Audience Member]: Do you find it strange that there are all these people here admiring what you’re doing? I mean, presumably we like your work.

[Winogrand]: Why should that be strange?

[Audience Member]: Then what you’re implying then is that you don’t do it for an audience, you do it for your own knowledge?

[Winogrand]: Well, this is a by-product, it is. It’s a by-product. It is.

[Audience Member]: So mainly you’re doing it for your own…

[Winogrand]: Well you know you take pictures; you don’t know what is going to happen to them.

[Audience Member]: Some people take pictures for an audience, you know? They want photographs that people would like.

[Winogrand]: How do you know that?

[Audience Member]: People have said it.

[Winogrand]: Alright.

[Audience Member]: That’s how I know.

[Winogrand]: That’s how you know, ok. That sounds, like a big burden, really.

[Audience Member]: To do it for..

[Winogrand]: I’ve got a hunch that you better enjoy just doing it.

[Audience Member]: Yeah, I agree.

[Winogrand]: I think you’ve got a lot of headaches if you don’t.

[Audience Member]: Do your student, submit work to you which is, aah, radically different in style from your own, and what part, assuming that they do, on occasion, how do you criticize?

[Winogrand]: There’s only one thing. You know, there’s only photography.

[Winogrand]: It doesn’t matter what camera it was done with.

[Audience Member]: Well, I don’t mean, aah, from a technical stand point. Maybe a student of your is trying to, is aah, sentimental, for instance, in his photographs, he’s trying to express, aah, what, you know, maybe he’s trying to express an emotion or something, or convey a feeling that you might consider, aaah, that you might disagree with, or…

[Winogrand]: What, disagree with a feeling? What do you mean?

[Audience Member]: Well, you see, well, this is my impression with (?). I don’t think they, that there is an emotional content, or you, aah, it’s there, but it’s not something that you’re trying to impose on the viewer…. Ok now, there are photographers I’m sure who do try to do that, they’re going to try and impose a feeling on me, they want me to react in a certain way, and do you criticize that kind of approach to photography?

[Winogrand]: It’s not photography, period.

[Winogrand]: It’s illustration! You’re discussing, you know, you’re discussing advertising. You’re discussing maybe the use of photographing means. One might, I can safely say, you know, that every photograph is a picture, but every picture isn’t necessarily a photograph, whether it’s done with a camera or not.

[Audience Member]: If that isn’t photography, what is photography?

[Winogrand]: Well what is a photograph? Do you want to ask that question? Well, let me say it in another way. You know, let’s say that still photography is the clumsiest way to exercise imagination, to illustrate literary ideas. Anybody with a pencil, beats you, period. You know, what I mean is you just want to take a very simple illustration of the point, if you wanted a melted watch, how do you get it? Dali can have one anytime he wants. You see? It is the clumsiest way to exercise imagination. It is tantamount to driving a nail in with a saw, when you can use a hammer.

[Audience Member]: Do you feel turned off by things like, you know, the multiple image kind of school…

[Winogrand]: It not a matter of being turned off, their work is not discussable as photographs, period.

[Winogrand]: You know, it’s just not discussable as photographs.

[Audience Member]: What is it discussable as?

[Winogrand]: I don’t know, print making, you know…

[Audience Member]: How about Ralph Gibson’s stuff?

[Winogrand]: Excuse me?

[Audience Member]: How about Ralph Gibson’s stuff?

[Winogrand]: How about it?

[Audience Member]: Have you considered those photographs? I think they are very imaginative.

[Winogrand]: I think they’re very dull. Go find an interesting photograph in his book, any of his books. They’re boring, on any terms. On their own terms! And god forbid you should miss the point, there’s a title!

[Winogrand]: That’s what I mean “on their own terms.” They’re no place. Photography is much more interesting than doing that, much more.

[Audience Member]: What is a photograph then?

[Winogrand]: A photograph is an illusion of a literal description.

[Winogrand] A hammer, a saw, a piece of time and space. That’s what a photograph is, nothing else. Alright?

[Audience Member]: Would you say that the means to come by what you describe doesn’t matter?

[Winogrand]: It’s always the same, just about.

[Audience Member]: the point that you push the button.

[Winogrand]: The process is perception, seeing, and then you operate the machine to make a record. That’s the way you take a picture, I don’t care what camera you use.

[Audience Member]: Oh, I wasn’t talking about what camera..

[Winogrand]: Of course you can put it on a tripod and remote and leave it go, too. And then the camera does it all.

[Audience Member]: Oh, what if somebody came out with what you thought was a good photograph. Would that matter to you that he stuck his camera on a tripod?

[Winogrand]: I don’t ask questions.

[Audience Member]: Ok.

[Audience Member]: So a good photograph is a good photograph.

[Winogrand]: I don’t really care how anything happens. I mean the guy could have it in a pocket with a hole, I don’t know.

[Audience Member]: What you’re saying though is a good photograph is a good photography. You see it…

[Winogrand]: I didn’t say anything about a “good photograph,” I just said what a photograph is.

[Audience Member]: Ok

[Audience Member]: Do you think film is a good way for someone to show their imagination? Like you said, when someone with a pencil beats us…

[Winogrand]: Yeah, film has a lot more possibilities of being “creative,” let’s use that word. But you know, it’s a funny business, that whole business is funny. Even with a movie camera, you know. The problem, you know, you could set a stage, and get things going, but you’ve still got the problem of photographing. Because once the thing is going, it exists like anything else. But probably, you know, its two different things really. Once it exists, you’ve got to photograph it, but where does the imagination come in, even then? It’s interesting, the question. I don’t know what imagination is, in the end.

[Audience Member]: So how could you say you don’t have it, or you do have it?

[Winogrand]: Well, as I understand the, generally, its connotations when it’s used, I say no, for me.

[Audience Member]: Well, I would say you have something that could be parallel to imagination.

[Audience Member]: Is there such a thing as a good photograph, as distinguished from just a photograph. And if so, what is this?

[Winogrand]: Sure, all photographs aren’t equal.

[Audience Member]: Ok, what makes one better than another.

[Winogrand]: You have to start to discuss the quality of the problem that’s conceived off of the medium, the quality of the degree of contention in the photograph. You know, there’s only sleep, without contention, in the end. There’s got to be contention, it has got to come from some place…
If you know Diane Arbus, for instance, the cover of her book. The point of contention is, you know, the form is on the verge of overwhelming the content. It does it. A problem is stated, a severe one. But what separates that photograph let’s say from other photographs? That’s the point of contention there. Because, what did I say? There’s only boredom without contention. It’s got to be there. Am I making any sense?

[Audience Member]: Yeah.

[Audience Member]: You talked earlier about how you were dodging and burning to get an open photograph, and I’m not sure exactly what that….

[Winogrand]: It simply means that in the shadow areas there should be information, it shouldn’t be dead, a hole in the picture, black. In the highlights there should be information, it shouldn’t be chalk-white.

[Audience Member]: Why not?

[Winogrand]: What?

[Winogrand]: You know. I mean. You know, that’s what we’re talking about. Were talking about, an “open print.”

[Audience Member]: Why do you say that though? I mean there are tons of people that consider themselves photographers who elect to have blacks with nothing in it and like it.

[Winogrand]: Everybody is responsible for their own foolishness, and their own misunderstandings.

[Audience Member]: In other words, you don’t allow that point of view?

[Winogrand]: It’s not up to me to allow, or disallow. I don’t run the show.

[Audience Member]: But you are in the profession. I’m not saying that you’re controlling anything. You’re not controlling anything, but you’re making a judgment just the same.

[Winogrand]: One the basis of what I understand, that’s all. I mean, just take a look in this room, ok? Who is wearing anything black? Take a look at somebody who is wearing black. There’s light on it, what color is it, is it black? Or is it grey? Is there a black in nature?

[Audience Member]: Yeah?

[Winogrand]: No, sorry. When the lights are out, when there’s no light, it’s black. Take pictures then, be my guest.

[Audience Member]: Isn’t there a point when something becomes interesting because of its relationship to black around it?

[Winogrand]: I don’t know what that means.

[Audience Member]: Suppose you…

[Winogrand]: You know, you have to have something specific to discuss, to begin with.

[Audience Member]: Ok, suppose you’ve got an object in a dark room, a black room, and that object was lit, would that have any interest to you in those surroundings? Or would you….

[Winogrand]: You have to bear with the picture. In the end, you have to talk about a specific picture, because it does work, at times. The whole problem, the whole problem, you know when I talk about a print being “rational,” etc, a photograph being rational. It has to compel you to suspend your disbelief, does it, or doesn’t it?

[Audience Member]: If a photograph…

[Winogrand]: In other words, if what you see is compelling enough for you to suspend your own disbelief about that black, ok,.a broken rule works. Who knows what’s impossible? I mean you’ve seen plenty of pictures where there is black, and it works.

[Audience Member]: Not many though. I was wondering whether you thought it worked.

[Winogrand]: It will at times, certainly. That problem is, what you do see has to compel a suspension of disbelief.

[Audience Member]: You say you’ve done a lot of color. How come you don’t do it any more?

[Winogrand]: Well that’s a long story.

[Winogrand]: You know, it aaah, the materials are very limited, leave it at that. And so is my pocket book, considering what the materials cost, and that’s on top of them being very limited.

[Audience Member]: Do you ever work with large format, or at least larger than 35?

[Winogrand]: No.

[Audience Member]: Presumably, some number of years back, you were a person just happily taking pictures, and you know, just for yourself, and that was the limit of your cares. Now you’re pretty-well, a very well-known photographer. Can you comment on, like, did that happen more or less despite your efforts, or did you actively do a lot of hustling, and can you talk a little about the hustling part of it?

[Winogrand]: No, I haven’t been doing any hustling.

[Audience Member]: In other words, how did your photographs, can you talk a little but more about how your photographs got known? Other than, I mean, you don’t keep them in a closet, right? You did something with them, presumably.

[Winogrand]: What’s your problem?

[Audience Member]: I’m trying to figure out what, you know, where. This is a real problem, right? Where everybody would like to be, would like to get known, you know, produce books.

[Winogrand]: I don’t know how to do it.

[Audience Member]: But you have, so that implies you know something that I don’t know.

[Audience Member]: I mean obviously it has to do with the pictures first, but once you’ve got the pictures, what do you do with them?

[Winogrand]: You know, I really don’t want to write a biography here, you know, because that’s what you’re really asking. I mean, it’s not simply stated. The whole thing is funny, in the end, it really is. You know, because politics exists, in the end. There are political people. I mean were not talking about me, I can talk about somebody whose name I won’t mention, who was studying in some place, for a Masters, and I mean this is roughly what I mean by politics, and he thought it was a lot of nonsense, and he just told them, “give it to me, because I’m not going to hang around,” and they just figured that he might produce something, and they wanted him to have a Masters from there. That’s political. Things work that way, it’s a lot of foolishness. You know, it’s a game, at some point.

[Audience Member]: How do you want to be remembered?

[Winogrand]: Oh look, what? I didn’t hear.

[Audience Member]: How do you want to be remembered?

[Winogrand]: How do I answer?

[Audience Member]: I guess, I don’t know, but today you see a lot of people like running around like trying to do street photography with a single lens reflex camera. Do you think, like this is a valid approach, you know, to do like the traditional photography on the street, period?

[Winogrand]: Follow your nose, you knows?

[Audience Member]: What?

[Winogrand]: Follow your nose.

[Audience Member]: Uhuh.

[Winogrand]: You know, I had a student where I teach, she happens to be very talented, but she can look for headaches where there aren’t any. And she says that she has got a compulsion, now and then compulsions to photograph particular things, it’s that bad. I think she should thank God for her compulsions, in the end.

[Audience Member]: Yeah, but I mean that they are really loud. I mean they are the loudest thing in the room…

[Winogrand]: What?

[Audience Member]: They are loud, and I mean part of the canned thing is almost like, you know, a secretive kind of thing, in a way. No?

[Winogrand]: No, that’s nonsense, if you ask me. The only time you’ve got to worry about launching a camera is if you’re shooting at a recording studio.

[Audience Member]: Has anyone ever asked you to not photograph them, when you were going to take a picture of them?

[Winogrand]: Sure.

[Audience Member]: I mean, have you ever gone ahead and done it?

[Winogrand]: They usually ask me after it’s done.

[Audience Member]: Nobody’s ever thought you were going to take a picture of them, and then asked you not to?

[Winogrand]: Yeah that’s happened, I don’t then. You know, it’s a funny answer, in a way, because if it’s interesting enough, I may very well go ahead anyway, I don’t know. That has happened, but, generally, the whole thing is over by the time, I hear anything.

[Audience Member]: Have you been in any circumstances where you can’t photograph, or you’ve lost control?

[Winogrand]: What do you mean I’ve lost control?

[Winogrand]: In those situations I don’t have a camera in the first place. What?

[Audience Member]: When something happens that just takes you completely away from where you want to be at the time and dealing with the image you are trying to form?

[Winogrand]: I don’t understand that. I mean I’m where I want to be.

[Audience Member]: All I’m trying to say is, do you ever get emotionally overtaken by any subject matter at any point in time, that you want to photograph, and you can’t, so you miss it?

[Winogrand]: The only experience I’ve had that could relate to that, years ago, a long time ago, I did a lot of things, prize fights actually. And I stopped doing it because I, you know, at some point I started flinching when I should have been shooting. That’s all, I mean, if that’s what you’re talking about.
[End of Recording]

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