The Garry Winogrand exhibit at the Metropolitan Museum of Art runs through September 21, 2014. It displays over 175 black & white photographs. Most are from New York City during the 60’s and 70’s. Others are from Chicago and other U.S. locations.
Winogrand ‘s photos appeared in Life, Look, Sports Illustrated and Collier’s, but none of those are in the exhibit. The exhibit shows his personal photography in three groups — Down from the Bronx, A Student of America, and Boom and Bust. It includes some of the work from his three Guggenheim Fellowships.
The exhibit is rich but not satisfying. The problem is that Winogrand was prolific but unfinished. He died at 56 with thousands of rolls of film undeveloped, unedited, or unprinted. This exhibit displays prints he developed and exhibited alongside photos he never saw. The experience is dark and maybe uncharacteristic.
Winogrand was a street photographer, called the central photographer of his generation by Szarkowski. But the street shots in this exhibit are snarky and demeaning. Did he despise the people he immortalized in his photographs? Or did the curators fail to channel the artist?
The curators say Winogrand liked women and enjoyed photographing them. In fact, Winogrand published Women are Beautiful, which he introduced saying “Whenever I’ve seen an attractive woman, I’ve done my best to photograph her.” So why are many, if not most, of the pictures of women in the exhibit unflattering?
We can only go by what Winogrand exhibited, what he published, what he printed, and what he selected on contact sheets. On that basis, we think he would have chosen a different pallette for his first major retrospective in 25 years.
Go see the exhibit for yourself. It’s strong and provocative, whether it’s vintage Winogrand or a somewhat misguided mashup.