Legendary Street Photographer Garry Winogrand at the Met

A photograph taken by Garry Winogrand of a women laughing, holding her purse and a half eaten ice cream cone.

"I photograph to find out what something will look like photographed," said the legendary street photographer, Garry Winogrand. In fact, he said it so often throughout his three-decade (or so) career, and in so many only-slightly different ways, that it became something of a motto… that and his other famous quote: "If you don't take the picture, you weren't there."

Both of these quotes are up on the walls of Winogrand's large and wonderful new retrospective at the Met, and both serve as reminders of the artist's passion for his medium, as well as his extreme prolificacy. Seriously: this guy shot EVERYTHING, to the point where, especially by the late 1970s, he kind of gave up even going through what he had captured, and left behind nearly 2,500 rolls of undeveloped film when he died at the age of 56.  

Image of a man with a twisted look on his face walking through the crowded streets of Santa Monica Pier.

Over 175 Prints, Some Never Before Seen!

The Garry Winogrand exhibition at the Met features more than 175 prints from throughout the artist's life: some iconic, some more obscure, and some never before seen in exhibition, including more than 50 posthumous prints that raise a number of interesting questions about photography-as-art in general and Winogrand's body of work in particular. If Winogrand himself didn't choose the shot for among the dozens, or hundreds, that he took that day–or in the case that he never even SAW some of these–can it really be considered part of his oeuvre? Would he have wanted it to be? 

A photograph of a couple playing in the ocean at Coney Island, taken by Garry Winogrand.

A Lesson in Photography Storytelling and Form

Talking points aside, the Winogrand retrospective is a fantastic show and a must for all aspiring street photographers. The way he framed his shots, seemingly haphazardly, but then somehow exactly right; his dead-on eye for picking out the most intriguing person or situation on a crowded streets; his sense of humor, his sense of humanity, his storytelling ability… spending an hour or so in these galleries is like taking a master class on the form. And because a big chunk of Winogrand's work was taken in 1960s New York City (usually Midtown, but he also liked to shoot out in Coney Island), there's a good deal of nostalgic and/or historical value here as well. So be sure to add a trip to the Met on your list of things to do this August!

A photograph taken by Garry Winogrand of a couple kissing on the street with a young girl looking at the camera behind them.

More Information: Garry Winogrand at the Met

The Garry Winogrand exhibition will be at the Met through September 21. The Met is open every day, from 10:00 a.m. to 5:30 on Sunday through Thursday, and until 9:00 p.m. on Friday and Saturday. 

Garry Winogrand's well-known photograph of a zoo keeper cleaning the window of a beluga whale tank, shot in black and white.

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