April 25, 2009

Garry Winogrand: Public Relations

Garry Winogrand, Peace Demonstration, Central Park, New York, 1970

The name Garry Winogrand is synonymous with “street photography.” Winogrand began his career as a commercial photographer, capturing the movement and force of sports, dances, and other events in his photographs - a pattern that later resurfaced in his book Public Relations. Upon receiving a second Guggenheim Fellowship in 1969 Winogrand decided to pursue his own projects, and would go on to publish The Animals, Women Are Beautiful, and Public Relations in the 1960s and 70s. Although the core theme of Public Relations is what Winogrand described “the effect of the media on events,” the significant presence of the Vietnam War and other historic events make the collection just as much about the turmoil and change of American life in the 1960s. The pictures recall press conferences, gallery parties, events surrounding Apollo 11, and student demonstrations, all of which share the common theme of being public events held for both the benefit of the media and for the pleasure and ritual derived from their participants. Every photograph captures not only a piece of American history and culture, but also the presence and influence of media at these events.

Garry Winogrand, Kent State Demonstration, Washington, D.C., 1970

The photographs in Public Relations are driven by the energy of the events they captured - tilted frames and agitated, beaten faces distill the emotion and movement of the moment. Furthermore, the closeness of the camera to the subjects, as in Kent State Demonstration, serves to place the audience and the photographer in the middle of the action. This specific photograph, with its downward angle and opposition to the flow of the crowd, makes the viewer to fall into the action of the demonstration as its participants flee from its violent conclusion.

Garry Winogrand, Apollo 11 Moon Shot, Cape Kennedy, Florida, 1969

Apollo 11 Moon Shot captures a public spectacle and the hype surrounding this landmark event in American history. It also illustrates the use and role of media, specifically the camera, in the everyday American life. The focus is given to the central figure - a woman photographing not Apollo 11, but Winogrand and those behind him. It seems like a standoff between the two types of photographers at this time - the photographer Winogrand was, that is commercial, and the photographer he became. The woman and the photograph of the woman represent this duality. Furthermore, The John F. Kennedy Space Center signage and the professional attire of those in the photograph, as well as the woman’s two cameras and the tag around her neck, highlight the presence and professionalism of the media at this landmark event.

Garry Winogrand, Elliot Richardson Press Conference, Austin, 1973

Garry Winogrand, Hard-Hat Rally, New York, 1969

The overwhelming presence of microphones and telephones in the book's cover image, Elliot Richardson Press Conference, parallels these objects overwhelming presence in society. In the 1960s, these machines of the media were revolutionizing how people communicate in order to gain attention and support in order to influence policy or cause. Hard-Hat Rally captures media involvement in publicizing the protests of the 1960s. The protester in the center of the image, mouth wide in anger as the reporter shoves a microphone in his face, emphasizes the media’s presence in and the overall mood of the rally. Winogrand’s Public Relations, through its photographs of various events of the 1960s and 1970s, captures the interaction between the media and the people in an effort to communicate the occurrence of events and the spread of ideas.

--Stephanie Stefanski

1 comment:

  1. Possibly the most prolific photographer of all time, Winogrand left behind almost 300,000 unedited images. He reportedly took three rolls of films daily. That's over 100 pictures a day! Ah, all of the images - stolen moments - that the world has yet to see. Now, imagine if he had a digital camera.