Street Photography Garry Winogrand: Shoot Like A Master
Street Photography GarryWinogrand: Shoot Like A Master
Capture Candid Decisive Moments Like Garry Winogrand
Street photography is about capturing unforgettable, once-in-a-lifetime moments for posterity. Garry Winogrand did just that, shooting all day every day. He left more than 5 million photos when he died at age 56 in 1984.
Garry Winogrand was the most prolific street photographer in history. Although he detested the term Street Photography, he is the epitome of this genre as we know it today. More about him later.
I missed the Greatest Train Race (GTR) this year for several reasons. Firstly, I don’t have a camera and the idea of shooting with my smart phone was simply unappealing. Another reason I decided to give the race a miss is the weather.
At minus 2 degrees celsius it was bitterly cold for me on Saturday, the 19th of August. I’m as cold-blooded as a lizard. So I chose to lay in bed until 09h00.
The Greatest Train Race is always a blessing for me, photographically speaking. Even though I remained in Mhluzi for the entire day, I still managed to grab some interesting shots related to the GTR. Well, at least two.
When the race ended at around 14h00 most of the participants went to Mathole Park in Mhluzi to relax and have a good time. The park was chock-a-block with people from all walks of life.
There were people selling food, company representatives promoting their services and non-profit organisations offering all sorts of services.
I strolled around the park to stretch my legs. And to see if I can grab some candid street shots. When I approached one gazebo I noticed the letters CDC (Centre for Disease Control) on it. I saw this young man speaking to people who walked past the tent.
I held my smart phone in a vertical position and started taking pictures as I approached him. He began speaking to me. As he spoke, I took photos of him without him realising what I was doing. He informed me about their services.
They were offering free HIV tests to interested people. Coincidentally, a day or two earlier I was listening to the radio and heard South African Minister of Health, Dr. Aaron Motsoaledi encouraging men to take HIV tests. The minister had said that all men needed to know their HIV status.
I decided to take the minister’s challenge and volunteered for a test. I must say I was a bit nervous. ‘What if I tested positive?’ I braced myself and went into this CDC gazebo for a test. All the time I was telling myself: ‘It doesn’t matter if I’m positive or negative, at least I’ll know my status.
Back at my house my wife and my sister were busy preparing food to sell to those who had come to the park. There was this huge three-legged pot that these women used to cook what is commonly known as Mala Mogodu. It was much fun watching these women going about their activities. I was also helping with other tasks.
Later on, my wife’s younger sister from Hendrina joined us. Her two daughters and a step child followed her. My son had driven all the way to Hendrina to fetch them. And we all had fun.
As they were busy doing this and that, I took as many photos as I could.
Street Photography Garry Winogrand Was Introspective
Prior to the GTR I invested a lot of time studying Garry Winogrand. I learned about his photography and wanted to find out what people thought of him. What kind of person was this man? So I read a lot about this pioneering street photographer and paid particular attention to the quotes attributed to him.
To say I learned a lot about photography just by reading and viewing this Master’s work would be an understatement.
Garry Winogrand helps me understand street photography far better than I did in the past. He made me realise how liberating street photography actually is.
I found comfort in his statement:
“There’s no special way a photograph should look.”
I find this statement liberating in that it allows me to appreciate my work regardless of whether other people like it or not.
And that’s street photography for me. You shoot the streets to satisfy your own curiosity. As Winogrand would put it:
“You photograph to see how something will look like.”
You don’t shoot to make anyone happy. You shoot for your own personal pleasure.
I won’t bore you with endless quotes from Garry Winogrand. You can get more than enough of those online. I just wanted to share with you some of the things I’ve learned from him.
Garry Winogrand was introspective. That’s to say he photographed how he felt. And this is a very important lesson in photography. No matter who you are. Or where you shoot from. You will inevitably produce work that says more about yourself than about the subject.
Street photography is all about you.
Yes, you. Whoever you are. Wherever you are. Whatever you shoot with. It’s all about you. Your choice of subjects. The message you want to share with the world.
Street Photography Garry Winogrand: Shooting in Mhluzi Township
If you live in a township like me, you want to capture life eKasi. You want to portray township life to the world. With your photos you’re saying to your viewers, this is what I saw in my neighbourhood.
Your choice of subject reflects your angle. Your approach to street photography. Your experiences or aspirations inform or mould this bias. What you shoot depends not only by what you see, but also on how you feel about it. This is your message to the world. This is your style.
What you shoot -:
Makes a statement
When someone looks at your photos they inevitably ask questions like:
Who is in this photo?
What are they doing?
Where was this photo taken?
Why was it taken?
How was this picture taken?
Photos may evoke emotions such as anger, anxiety, awe, joy, ire,hate, or fear.
Statement or Information
Another reason people take pictures is because they want to leave a legacy for future generations. What statement are you making with your photos? What are your images saying?
A photo is proof of what you as a photographer saw. You’re documenting without necessarily using words. I’m sure you remember the saying:
“A photo is worth a thousand words”.
Let your photos speak to the viewer.
Street Photography Garry Winogrand: How To Engage The Viewer With Your Photos
Street photography should allow the viewer to engage with its message. In other words, resist the temptation to describe or explain to the viewer what’s happening in the photo. Let the viewer interpret the images for himself or herself. No captions needed.
How do you make sure that the viewer appreciate your pictures? Include three or more things, subjects, objects in your frame. This will guide the viewer. Whoever is looking at your photos will be able to interpret for themselves what is happening.
Until now I’ve been guilty of speaking for my pictures. This is not necessary. Street photography should speak for itself.
I feel very strongly about my photos. My message is: ‘This is what I saw’. Why I chose to capture it is a problem for the reader to solve.
Are you a street photographer living in a township in South Africa?
Are you familiar with the work of Garry Winogrand? What do you think of him as a street photographer?
Please share your views with me in the comments section below.