Film Review: Garry Winogrand - All Things are Photographable


When Garry Winogrand died in 1984, he left thousands of rolls of unprocessed film still in their canisters, thrown into large plastic bags. Perhaps the greatest modern street photographer (certainly the most prolific), Winogrand’s photographs moved—even as they were still images. Looking at his work you are looking at the world in a millisecond of paused breath.

The documentary, “Garry Winogrand: All Things Are Photographable” opens at the Film Forum in New York on September 19. It is a warm, extremely personal look at a photographer who was able to absorb and reflect the energy and the pathos of first New York City, and later Los Angeles and Texas. Combining images, archival news footage, snippets of talks, TV interviews, his friends, curators, one of his three ex-wives and audio interviews, the film shows the obsessive photographer who wanted “to see how things would look in a photograph.”

He was a photographer’s photographer, in that he took hundreds of thousands of images, often not looking back to print or edit. It was the actual act of shooting that preoccupied him. “I would like to not exist,” he said. Using a wide-angle lens on his beloved LeicaM4, Winogrand didn’t wait for the perfect shot, he found it.

Winogrand took photos because he had to. For him you become an artist in spite of, not because of the support you received. Born in The Bronx, he was a brash, full of life man. In the documentary he is called “an athlete’ for his images that seem to move and capture the spontaneity of everything around him. He didn’t shoot for fame or fortune. It’s as if his life depended on it.

“Is the photograph more dramatic then what was photographed?” he asks in the film. It was always the photograph that he wanted, not the commentary, or the critique. He photographed the world around him without regard for the cost of film or processing, making him, as one person said in the film, “the first digital photographer.”

Winogrand walked the streets taking up to 600 photos each day. Using his wide angle lens he was able to shoot entire scenes, not simply strange juxtapositions. He was intrigued by people looking out at something outside of the frame that we couldn’t see. “I discovered things in that nothing,” he said.

Garry Winogrand created a story that we as viewers are left to understand, to parse and to marvel at. He photographed a time of change, from the rigid 1950s into the looser 1960s and 1970s. The modern world makes the kind of photos he took impossible to copy. And as an editor, I would never condone his way of leaving so much work unseen. But Winogrand’s photographs do show us a world in all of its unpredictable realness. And that is a legacy for us that can be studied again and again.

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Presented with support from the Helen Frankenthaler Endowed Fund for Films on Art and the Roy Lichtenstein Foundation Fund. Copyright Greenwich Entertainment 2018. Directed by Sasha Waters Freyer.


Stella Kramer is a Pulitzer Prize-winning photo editor, writer and visual consultant who works with photographers to help them realize their professional and creative goals. She is the photo editor and essayist of The New Yorkers by Robert Herman, and Brooklyn’s Sweet Ruin by Paul Raphaelson. Stella has reviewed portfolios for Photo Alliance in New Orleans, En Foco, Atlanta Celebrates Photography, ASMP, PhotoLA, FOTOFusion, Photolucida, The Center for Fine Art Photography, CENTER and School of Visual Arts. She has curated photography exhibitions for the Museum of the City of New York, Griffin Museum of Photography, Photoville and South Street Seaport Museum, and produced workshops for KelbyMedia. Stella is on the faculty of the Masters of Digital Photography program at School of Visual Arts in NYC. Connect with Stella on her Website and Twitter!