1969 by Garry Winogrand
San Francisco Museum of Modern Art
SFMOMA’s exhibition of Winogrand’s photography was to be swallowed up by the middle of the twentieth-century. Bouncing us through the depression of the ’30s, second world war, the glamorous ’50s and the swinging ’60s, Winograd invites us into other generations, seducing us into each with his captivating images. His images are enticing; shot at various angles, one is never looking at a picture, you instead become part of the scene. Figures are not posing but absorbed in the action of their day, leaving the images fuelled with the energy of the moment. One of Winogrand’s favourite compositions is to capture those walking towards him, plunging us into the shoes of someone walking down the street, as we come head on to the faces of a different generation. This particular photo, Los Angeles, is quite restrained in the distance it keeps. In many images the camera must have been thrust into the face of its subject, the expressions of the unsuspecting walkers close enough to feel their bristle of reaction at someone so close. It is this frank approach that makes Winogrand’s photographs so vivid, so expressive, and documentative of the lives of everyday Americans. Despite his naturalistic approach, this photo of Los Angeles beautifully demonstrates Winogrand’s attention to light and composition. The shafts of light, shooting diagonally into the foreground, put these strolling ladies on a pedestal, casting their shadows dramatically across their pavement ‘stage’. Looking closer, Winogrand had captured the distraction of the audience – the quiet moment of a child observing the curled over man in the wheelchair, cup held between his knees. His gaze is poignant, his innocence pondering on what he can’t quite understand; the strutting ladies’ gaze has none of this intimacy, as they look down from their centre stage.