Sunday, July 13, 2008

it's what's in the frame

My friend Karl loaned me his copy of 1964 by Garry Winogrand, and I've had it for some months. We've toyed with the idea of my selling it on eBay since it goes for $325-500 apparently. He said he'd give me a commission. I would decline.

In the year of the book title, Winogrand won a Guggenheim fellowship grant for a four month photography road trip. That sounds just about like heaven to me. In his application for the grant he wrote:

"I look at the pictures I have done up to now, and they make me feel that who we are and how we feel and what is to become of us just doesn’t matter. Our aspirations and successes have been cheap and petty. I read the newspapers, the columnists, some books, I look at some magazines [our press]. They all deal in illusions and fantasies. I can only conclude that we have lost ourselves, and that the bomb may finish the job permanently, and it just doesn’t matter, we have not loved life. I cannot accept my conclusions, and so I must continue this photographic investigation further and deeper. This is my project."

My friend Alek found this interview with Winogrand by Barbara Diamonstein, which is an inspiring piece, to read how unaffected he was by his fame and success.

Paraphrasing one thing he says in it is that it doesn't matter how you set up a photograph, or what kind of techniques you use processing it. And whether you prefer film or digital. What matters is what's in the frame.

I like thinking about that, using that as a mantra - for photography, and for daily life.

"I left New York in mid-June and returned late in October. The time was spent driving through the country in a slow car photographing all the time." (- Garry Winogrand)


André Lemay said...

Great, it's reminds me when I was younger and looking at pictures in magazines, but these are a lot better.

Drowsey Monkey said...

These are fabulous! What a wonderful time capsule.

Anet said...

Ahhh! Those were the days! I was two and could get away with throwing tantrums!
I just love the last shot, she sure is stylish!

VioletSky said...

Such everyday ordinariness made to look evocative.

Sharon said...

The shot of the mother and son (in Mickey Mouse ears) is bizarre, so cold and disturbing.......almost Orwellian.

I like the idea of "What's in the frame" too.

Anonymous said...


Ruth said...

The Mouseketeer ears are hilarious. I, along with everyone at my schools, (I went to 7 grade schools), had the ears, but I only knew of one or two of the kids who actually went to Disneyland.

Those photos really captured and froze a time in America that are right in the center of my formative years.

Don said...

oops the above comment was Don, not Ruth.

Bob Johnson said...

Ruth I love this book, went and found a bunch of sites and bookmarked them, use to have a pic of me with the MM ears, from our trip to DL in 63'.

Ruth said...

André, yes, me too. I remember looking at Life magazine. Thank you, André.

* * *

Drowsey, aren't they! You should see the whole book!

* * *

Anet, haha! Too bad we have to stop tantrums after that. Yes, isn't that last one quite fetching?

Ruth said...

Sanna, you summarized Winogrand for me.

* * *

Sharon, yeah, it's helpful to me. You should see all his shots, each one has a person, and some are cold indeed. It really makes you think about the role of photographer.

* * *

Amy, he is!

Ruth said...

Ruth/Don (:-), it shows how important photography is, and cinema, to preserve each time and not forget. I think I had the mouse ears too, now I think about it! And where did I get them is the question!

* * *

Bob, cool! Do you want this one? We'll sell it at the going rate! I can negotiate with Karl if you're interested, seriously! It would save us the work of posting and blah blah blah. Let me know!

Sandy said...

I would sure love more of a peek into this book. Interesting photos and that top one feels a little "robotic - programmed" to me, meaning weird....

Thanks for the post.

Ginnie said...

This looks like a WONDERFUL book, Ruth!

Ruth said...

Sandy, yeah, that picture does look robotic-programmed, doesn't it? The book is full of strange images like that. Some include the car window frame in the shot, making it feel quite voyeuristic. It was a fascinating project, and it's cool that it is preserved in the book, and that the book is so highly valued.

* * *

Boots, I think you would love to turn every page. I can hear you "ohhhh"-ing.

Gwen Buchanan said...

Strong light... Long shadows... unless it just looks more-so since it is in Bk/wh..

... he seems sad about the human race... sad about illusions, fantasies... "what is to become of us just doesn't matter", he twice repeats ...
...seems he is looking through this maze of life and is very disappointed.

freefalling said...

I LOVE the cowboy photo!
Reminds me so much of the Thunderbirds.
Did you get the Thunderbirds in the US?
The international rescuers - puppet form.

Ruth said...

Yes, Gwen, he was sad about it, and that's why he applied for the grant, so he could see what was happening, how people were. It's possible he is disappointed, I don't know. I didn't catch that from the interview, but I'm not sure it gave opportunity for him to talk about that, as it was more about photography in general, not this work.

* * *

Letitia, that one cracks me up! Such a strange, floating moment. His shape is comical frozen like that. I don't know about the Thunderbirds - only performing jets!

alek said...

finding that interview was a great insight, thanks to you. The man's attitude is sheer and enlightening. As regards cameras our discussion of this morning further proves that point, though i think the inclination with digital to experiment with all kinds of process detracts from developing the eye that allows you to see the frame better. Not that everyone does it; for sure.
these are great shots.

freefalling said...

OH - MY - GOD, Ruth!
You don't know the Thunderbirds.
YOU would LOVE them.
Check them out here:They're brilliant!

Rauf said...

Commission is fine Ruth, something is seriously wrong with me and i hate that word. i get angry when some one offers commision for something i do to help.
People have agents, they work on commission, its pretty normal.

Pictures are just your expression Ruth, some pictures stand alone and speak for themselves, some need write up to become great pictures.

Rauf said...

Actually Ruth, i will not give these pictures a second look. The way they are presented matters a lot. i have absolutely no presentation skills.

Ruth said...

Alek, it is a very good practice to work on sticking to what's in the frame.

* * *

Letty, that is one of the most bizarre things I've ever seen! How did we not have that here? Frickin hilarious!

* * *

rauf, the book itself is the presentation, and turning each page reveals a new face of American life. Snapping out a few for this post doesn't do it justice.