Archive for January, 2012

German Photography: Michael Schmidt

Thursday, January 19th, 2012

Junk for Code : German Photography: Michael Schmidt.

May 30, 2009The dominance of the the Becher students (Gursky, Ruff, Struth, et al) in the art markets in recent years, it would be easy for collectors to come to the conclusion that everything interesting in German photography was and is emanating from Dusseldorf. The work of Michael Schmidt, is an example of some of the excellent work coming from a group of photographers who have been working in and around Berlin/Essen for decades, with loose ties to Lewis Baltz and Paul Graham.

SchmidtMBerlin-Stadtbilder.jpg Michael Schmidt, Berlin-Stadtbilder (Cityscapes) ; 1976-1980.Schmidt also works in serial format, gathering together sequences of images that together provide a more nuanced view of a subject. This sequence doesn’t tell a deeper or more linear narrative or story since it is more the relationships between a group of fragments or moments broadening our understanding of the rhythms of life buried underneath the surface.

A characteristic of his work is the arrangement of the individual photographs — the interplay and dialogue between the multi-layered images — that gives the images their distinct meaning, revealing the correlation between historical events and individual biographies. This leaves his images rather l open for different viewers’ interpretations.

In his photographs of urban architecture, which are not simply physical landscapes but social ones as well, he provides a formally balanced but menacing portrait of the modern metropolis.

SchmidtM-BerlinWedding.jpg Michael Schmidt, Berlin-Wedding; 1976-1978.In the city landscapes of “Berlin Wedding” (1976-78) the artist offers a seemingly factual account of the district, cast in richly nuanced greys. The photographs show deserted sites with pre-war architecture, empty lots, massive post-war concrete building blocks as well as sporadic patches of urban nature. In a similarly objective style, he registers in “Stadtbilder” (1976-77) the many iterations of former-West Berlin’s architecture. In this way, the architecture itself can be read as an emblem of historical and social processes.

The images for Irgendwo” (Somewhere) from 2001-2004 were taken over the course of three years during Schmidt’s extensive journeys through out Germany. The artist has arranged the images in groups of nine photographs for display in the main space of the gallery.”Irgendwo” presents rather bleak views of province-life in the reunited Germany with suburban houses and village pubs, deserted low-cost supermarkets and historical buildings, as well as distanced motorways cutting through the landscape.

Typically for his Modus Operandi Schmidt conflates architectural and landscape photographs with portraits and shots of seemingly unimportant details. It is only through the arrangement in groups – the interplay and dialogue between the images – that the individual images acquire their distinct meaning and the issue of a relation between spatial environment and individual biography comes into view.

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Schmidt’s style is related to the unembellished New Topographic photography of his American peers, Robert Adams and Lewis Baltz, and ultimately descended from Eugène Atget’s existentially-loaded topographies.
Despite the severity of his documentary approach, Schmidt’s photography is intensely engaged with human, and at times, personal experience. He once said: “I need my photographs as confirmation of that which I have experienced”. Waffenruhe (Ceasefire), 1985–87, is a key Schmidt work: his most personal project made in the years immediately preceding the fall of the Berlin Wall.

muse-ings: Michael Schmidt

Thursday, January 19th, 2012

muse-ings: Michael Schmidt.

Michael Schmidt

My second post on this blog was a fairly brief one about Berlin photographer Michael Schmidt. It’s quite hard to find a lot of information about Schmidt online and the same goes for his pictures – and yet his influence on many contemporary photographers is significant – among his pupils are Andreas Gursky and Ulrich Gorlich – and his working colleagues include Lewis Baltz, William Eggleston, Paul Graham and Robert Adams. Basically, you need to get the books or go to the shows.

Then other day I saw a refence to a rare N. American exhibition (he has actually had two solo shows at MoMA in 1988 and 1996) of his work at Mitchell-Innes & Nash in NY – which also has a small selection of pictures online.

“Schmidt arrived at a strategy of disseminating his work early on. He photographs large quantities of images without a specific project in mind. These images are then organized into groups with socially evocative titles, such as Ausländische Mitbürger (Foreign Co-citizens, 1973) or Berlin, Stadtbilder (Berlin, Images of the City, 1976-80). He exhibits the work in clusters or groupings intended to draw relationships among the images, often in a public context, and then, circumstances permitting, publishes a book of the images. Unlike many artist monographs, Schmidt’s books are not intended to catalog discrete images but rather to interconnect images dependant on those associations, mirroring his process of hanging photographs on the wall. The books tend to be light on text—often having none other than the title—and are truly more artist book than monograph, despite mass production by major publishers…

…Schmidt continued to explore a landscape and a city fraught with history in his pivotal work Ein-heit (U-ni-ty, 1991–94), shown at the Museum of Modern Art, New York, in 1996 and published in the same year. The importance of fragmentation as an interpretive trope is reinforced by Schmidt’s dividing with hyphens a word meaning wholeness, diametric forces embodied in the very title of the project. Conventional aesthetics of black and white photography were abandoned in favor of intentionally inconsistent prints, often with compressed, almost monochromatic tonal ranges, large grain, and poor detail, all of which served to reinforce his subjects. The book presents a startling record of Schmidt’s fascinations with the weight of history upon the German citizen, the cultural lineage behind his project, and the interrelatedness of past and present, and the impossibility of truly knowing, especially through photography. A project of epic scope, Schmidt included photographs that he made of portraits and landscapes in Berlin, photographs of objects of significance to the German populace, and re-photographed images resonant in collective German memory. By combining portraiture of ordinary citizens with landscapes changed through history and historical material, Schmidt points to the effects of the latter two on the subjects in the portraits. Examples of re-photographed materials include stills from Leni Reifenstahl’s 1934 Nazi propaganda film Triumph of the Will, photographs of soldiers of the German Democratic Republic passing a review, and a tablet inscribed with the third stanza of the German national anthem, the lyrics of which were used under the Weimar Republic and the Federal Republic. Images are doubled on facing pages, cropped tightly to fragment the scene, printed backwards, and otherwise freely manipulated.

Dense with precise historical references but also elusively vague at points, and lacking a declarative personal style, Schmidt’s work has not achieved the international market success of many of his better-known German contemporaries. Nonetheless, Schmidt continues to live and work in Berlin, weaving his own layers into the variegated strata of German culture and history. His legacy is already enormous. (from the 20th Century Encyclopedia of Photography)”

Probably the two easiest books of his to get hold of are Michael Schmidt: Berlin Nach 1945 and Irgendwo. His best, and possibly most important, book is Waffenruhe – but it’s almost impossible to find and even more impossible to find at an affordable price ($1250.00 at Vincent Borrelli)

“”Irgendwo” presents rather bleak views of province-life in the reunited Germany with suburban houses and village pubs, deserted low-cost supermarkets and historical buildings, as well as distanced motorways cutting through the landscape. Typically for his Modus Operandi Schmidt conflates architectural and landscape photographs with portraits and shots of seemingly unimportant details. It is only through the arrangement in groups – the interplay and dialogue between the images – that the individual images acquire their distinct meaning and the issue of a relation between spatial environment and individual biography comes into view. The photographs, however, do not depict particular places. In his work Schmidt seems to be more interested in tracing the loss of a subjective connection to “home as a place with identity”:

“Home says nothing to me. In any case, home is what you carry with you, inside you. You remember places because you spent the most wonderful or the most horrible time there during your childhood. But these places have become more arbitrary, less specific. … There is no such thing as an objective category that one might call ‘home’ any more. Such things take place subjectively nowadays.”” (Michael Schmidt)

There’s information on a previous exhibition of Irgendwo here
Personally I find looking at Schmidt’s photogrpahy to be an intense and deep experience – in many ways it is a counterbalance to (or antidote to?) much contemporary photogrpahy, especially of the Gursky, Struth or Soth style. Even some of his “straightest” images have an air of enigma about them and their are layers to unravel – especially in a series. It provokes thought and imagination, having the depth of a good poem – and it takes as much work as reading a good poem to draw out its many meanings.

Sophie Calle: stalker, stripper, sleeper, spy

Thursday, January 19th, 2012

Sophie Calle: stalker, stripper, sleeper, spy | Art and design | The Guardian.

From following a stranger to Venice to burying her mother’s jewellery at the north pole, Sophie Calle is France’s foremost artist of the unexpected.

One day, a journalist from Le Monde interviewed Sophie Calle. He sat down in her studio and asked her her date of birth. She said: “October 9, 1953.” He said: “Go on.” So she did, the story of her life, right from the start. The resulting two-part profile was reportedly unspeakably dull.

How long was that interview, I ask France’s most eminent conceptual artist, as we sit over coffee in her studio south of Paris. “Maybe 10 hours. I can talk about my life endlessly,” she says, drawing on a cigarette, exhaling and staring me down. This worries me. My train leaves for London in five hours, and I want to be on it.

I ask questions I hope are less open-ended. Why did she become an artist? “To seduce my father.” Excellent answer: short, shocking and to the point. She smiles, then pops a raspberry into her mouth. Did she succeed? “Oh yes,” she says, unleashing a huge grin. This seduction (she won’t say if it was a sexual one) took place half a lifetime ago. Calle, then 26, had returned to Paris after seven years abroad. She moved in with her father, whom she did not know well. “I had always lived with my mother or grandparents. I knew my father was a little disappointed in me.”

Years earlier, she had duped him into bankrolling her travels. “I was studying with Jean Baudrillard, and my father agreed he would pay me a sum of money if I got my diploma. But I didn’t want to finish it. I told Baudrillard. He said, ‘Don’t worry, I’ll pass off some other student’s exam papers as yours. You’ll get your diploma.’” This is a scoop: the professor who famously argued that the first Gulf war did not take place ensured that Sophie Calle got a diploma for work she never did. “I can tell this story now because Baudrillard is dead,” Calle says. What did her father think? “I got my diploma,” she shrugs. “How was not his concern.”

Her father was a doctor and an art collector. “He collected pop art, and a lot of it consisted of photographs with accompanying text.” Just like Calle’s? “Just like mine,” she agrees. “I came back to seduce him. I wanted to do something that made him happy for me.” To be honest, I don’t believe this story, except as a retrospective explanation of an unconscious impulse. Later, she tells me that none of her work is done for therapeutic reasons: “If the work is therapeutic, that is a side effect for which I’m thankful.”

Strangers in the bed

She tells another, more plausible story of how she started. She was bored. “I had no friends; I didn’t know what to do with my life, so I started to follow people.” Why? “Establishing rules and following them is restful. If you follow someone, you don’t have to wonder where you’re going to eat. They take you to their restaurant. The choice is made for you.”

During her stalking days, a friend asked if she could sleep in Calle’s bed. “That made me think it would be fun to have someone in bed all the time.” So she asked friends and strangers to sleep in the bed for eight hours; one participant thought there was going to be an orgy. It sounds like a conceptual art project. “It wasn’t,” counters Calle. “It only became so when the wife of a critic told him about it. He came along. He said, ‘Is this art?’ and I said, ‘It could be.’” She took photographs and wrote down everything everyone said. The result was The Sleepers, text and photographs that could readily have hung on her father’s walls.

For her next project, Calle went to Venice to follow a man she had met at a party, phoned hundreds of hotels until she found out where he was staying, and then persuaded a woman who lived opposite to let her photograph his comings and goings from her window. The result was a book called Suite Vénitienne, published in 1979.

These works electrified France’s art world, even if Calle had not originally conceived them as art. Her pictures were enticingly enigmatic; her texts read like detective reports, or a psychiatrist’s case notes, or even a Le Monde journalist’s deadly prose.

Daddy was pleased by his daughter’s success, though worried by photographs she showed him of her stripping: she had been working in a Pigalle club. “He said to me, ‘Never show them to anybody.’” Why did she become a stripper? “I was very feminist, but then a girlfriend who was a prostitute suggested I do it to make money. I decided not to become a prostitute. I thought it would be dangerous for my relations with men in the future.”

Calle needed the money, but it was also a self-imposed test. “I asked myself, ‘Am I refusing just because other feminists would oppose me?’ And I realised I feared being psychologically destroyed by the look of others. But why did I think it OK to be a nude model for artists?” Did she find it degrading? “No. To me they were pathetic, and I looked at them with a look of contempt. I had made a style of this contempt and they were paralysed.” Against her father’s wishes, Calle published The Striptease, a book of these photos, juxtaposed with cards her parents had received from friends when their daughter was born (“They all hoped Sophie will be a nice girl”).

In 1983, Calle produced her most controversial work of art, Address Book. She had found an address book in the street, photocopied it and sent the original back to its owner. Then she set about ringing the numbers to assemble a portrait of the man. She also took photographs of other people engaged in his favourite activities. When the newspaper Libération published the results, the man, documentary film-maker Pierre Baudry, threatened to sue for invasion of privacy, only backing down when the paper ran a nude photograph of Calle. Given that The Striptease was already published, this sounds like rather feeble revenge. “He was trying to be very aggressive. He disliked what I did.”

In the years since, Calle’s oeuvre has flirted with these opposites: control and freedom, choice and compulsion, intimacy and distance. On one level, her art responds to the surfeit of choice in a late capitalist society; she follows rules as a break from the endless work of choosing. She is currently working with a clairvoyant who tells her to do certain things, go to certain places.

To the north pole with mum

Much of Calle’s recent work involves her mother, who died nearly three years ago. Last year, Calle joined an expedition to the Arctic, where her mother had always longed to go. She packed a photograph of her mother, her ring, her Chanel necklace, and buried them in a glacier. She wrote of the ritual: “Cried a little. Took a photo. Martha [Wainwright] sang a verse of Marilyn Monroe – my mother’s other passion along with the north pole – Diamonds Are a Girl’s Best Friend. Now my mother has gone to the north pole.” (You can see how Calle laid her mother to rest on her blog ; a new artwork inspired by the trip will be shown at the Royal Academy in December.) “Maybe in thousands of years,” Calle wrote, “specialists in glaciology will find her ring and discuss endlessly this flash of diamond in Inuit culture.”

Calle has exposed herself most in two works catalysed by painful break-ups. Exquisite Pain (2003) was prompted by her then lover’s failure to meet her in New Delhi. On each day of her journey there, she had taken a photograph and written how she was looking forward to seeing him. This became a book, which also included other people’s worst memories – a woman who had given birth to a dead child, a boy hearing his father had died. “Their stories did have a side effect: they made my pain manageable.”

Take Care of Yourself (2007) was prompted by an email Calle received from a lover ending their relationship. It ended: “Take care of yourself.” Calle invited 107 women to analyse the email. Is the resulting installation (on show next month at the Whitechapel gallery in London) simple revenge? “I did not want it to be. I hesitated every day, but ultimately, my excitement was stronger than my hesitation.” But it was inspired by rejection? “Yes, but now this man is my friend. He responded so nicely when I told him what I was doing.”

Calle’s current boyfriend of five years (they don’t live together, and she has no children) has stipulated that he does not want to appear in her work. “I agreed,” she says, “but I may change my mind.”

Sophie Calle: Talking to Strangers

Thursday, January 19th, 2012

Sophie Calle: Talking to Strangers.

Acclaimed for her photographic and film installations, Sophie Calle’s work reports on encounters and situations that she sets in motion. Whether asking strangers to sleep in her bed, or inviting an author to take charge of her destiny, she documents social interactions that require a pact of complete trust. This exhibition brings together major works from the 1980s to the present.

Born in Paris in 1953, Calle began taking photographs and making notes as she followed strangers on the streets in 1979. Image and text, presented in compelling narratives, have since formed the basis of her work. Poised between private and collective experience, they allude to journalism, anthropology and psychoanalysis, as well as to literature, the diary and the photo novel.

Up close and (too) personal: A Sophie Calle retrospective

http://www.independent.co.uk/arts-entertainment/art/features/up-close-and-too-personal-a-sophie-calle-retrospective-1809346.html

Looking at the work that the French artist Sophie Calle has made over the years, it is tempting to assume that she is mad. She stalked a man in Venice and invited strangers to her bed. In New York, she recorded the number of times she smiled at passers by and how often they smiled back. When a lover ended a relationship by email she turned it into a large artwork, inviting 107 women to comment on this intimate correspondence.

Yet, of course, the woman standing in her warehouse home in the suburbs of Paris is no deranged stalker but a charming and eccentric middle-aged woman, her attractive face dwarfed by a pair of large brown spectacles that turn up dramatically at the corners, like wings. She fusses over a cat that stalks through the building, tail in the air, past a taxidermy white dog curled up in one corner and a tiger, wearing a diamante collar, in the other. Stuffed pink flamingoes stand in line to one side of the room. Other than the flamboyant decor, there is no obvious sign of an artist in residence.

As an artist, Sophie Calle does not make work, as such. Photographs appear in her work but she is no photographer – sometimes she pays a professional to take the pictures. Her art, for the most part, can be described as a record of her adventures. Each piece is a document of an event, of some kind of interaction in which Calle engages with the world in her unique way. She explores the boundaries of how we interact with one another and what is – and is not – socially acceptable behaviour. In the Bronx in New York, she asked strangers to take her to a place of their choice, an exercise potent with risk back then in 1980 when, as one of her participants commented: “a white person comes to the neighbourhood, it is either a policeman, a dope peddler or a mistake.”

“In my work I do things that I would never do in my life. In normal life I am much more discreet. I am not intrusive. I don’t investigate my friends’ lives. But if it’s a project then it’s different,” she says.

The first retrospective of her work – from when she began in 1979 to work still in progress – has just opened at the Whitechapel Gallery in London. During her career she has exhibited at the Metropolitan Museum and MoMA in New York, at the Pomipdou in Paris and in 2007 she represented France at the Venice Biennale. It is quite a feat for someone who did not start out with intentions of being an artist.

She arrived home to Paris in the late 1970s after seven years hitchhiking and travelling through America. She was 26 years old, lost and uncertain of what to do with her life. “I didn’t know anybody. I didn’t have much energy so I started to follow people just to give a motor to my day. I followed people not for artistic reasons but for a distraction, choosing someone at random,” she says. “I started photographing the people I followed. It came really without thinking. I had a diary and started to record who I followed and where they went. I printed the photos in a basement I shared with another girl, Gloria Friedman.”

After an entire night of printing photographs, Friedman asked Calle if she could sleep in her bed, rather than make the journey home. Calle agreed and was intrigued. Inhabiting another’s bed is an intimate act that requires trust on both sides. She then went out on the street inviting friends, neighbours and people at random to sleep in her bed, each for an eight-hour stint. She photographed them and made notes on each person. At this point, she did not consider herself an artist. She was acting instinctively, following her particular – and peculiar – interests.

“I used to talk to women at the market and one of them came over to sleep in my bed. She was married to an art critic and he visited my house and then invited me to exhibit at the Biennale des Jeunes. Suddenly, I found myself showing at the Museum of Modern Art.” These early works were acclaimed by critics and Calle’s career began. “My work became art the day it was shown on the wall,” she says.

Calle’s idiosyncratic ways have attracted some high-profile admirers. The French philosopher Jean Baudrillard was a fan (he died in 2007). She collaborated with Damien Hirst, who wrote her a long passionate love letter in 1989. He wrote: “Do I love you? Of course I do, your breath in the mornings, the way that your feet curl around mine when you sleep… ” Convincing as it may sound, it is not entirely genuine but an art project. “I had never received a love letter, so I asked him to send me one. He wrote me the most real love letter, it was so incredibly invented that I almost believed it,” says Calle. She loves these games, where fact or fiction are hard to distinguish.

The novelist Paul Auster based a character, Maria, on Calle in his novel Leviathan. After reading the novel, Calle decided to try and become the character, to recreate the parts of Maria that Auster had made up. Maria had a “chromatic diet”, eating food of only one colour on a given day. Monday orange: carrots, cantaloupe, shrimps. Tuesday red: tomatoes, steak tartare. And so on. For a week, Calle followed this regime and photographed it.

“He had used my real life to create a fictional character and I wanted to reverse the process. I asked him to write a character that I could become. But he wouldn’t. He said it was too dangerous. He didn’t want to be responsible if something happened. He offered me something more simple,” says Calle.

Their collaboration was called “Personal Instructions for SC on How to Improve Life in New York City (Because she asked… )”. Calle had to smile at and talk to strangers. She had to carry sandwiches and cigarettes to give to homeless people. And “cultivate a spot”, which for her meant turning a public telephone box into an attractive place, with flowers, magazines, drinks and free cigarettes. She recorded everything that happened.

What motivates Calle is not possible to say. She herself does not know precisely why she works in this way. “I’m not obsessive,” she says, “but I am rigorous. If I have decided that there is this rule or that rule then I am very committed. I don’t get bored. I think I have an ability because I believe in the construction of the idea. If it’s a good idea then it’s exciting. I am interested on how it will stand on the wall.”

In 2003, Hirst attempted to analyse her character when she invited him to interview her for the catalogue of her exhibition at the Pompidou. He gave her a series of questionnaires from psychological profile tests – although the form titles, TF-02, 02-4T, U4-M-E, are witty, clever and obviously fake. Fictitious they may be, but Calle filled in the forms and the conclusion fits; “She likes extremes and is highly adventurous, but at the same time does not like to be out of control”.

It is a sense of adventure that has pitfalls; occasionally people don’t like having artists poke into the intimate corners of their lives. A few years ago, she found an address book on the street, photocopied it and returned it to the owner, referred to as Pierre D. She then visited all the people in the address book, asking them about this man, his character, where he went out to eat. She wrote about him in the newspaper Liberation, which had given her a half page of the paper to fill every day over summer. When Pierre D found out what was going on, he was furious.

“He was very angry. And I did feel bad about it, yes. I was disappointed. All his friends were willing to speak to me about this man. They were all sure that he would love the project. I liked the man, I liked his books, his restaurants, his friends. I started to be in love with him. I thought we would fall into each other’s arms and live a love story. I didn’t see it coming. So I felt very guilty, although my commitment to a project is stronger than my sense of guilt.”

Pierre D took his revenge by publishing a nude photograph of Calle.

In 2007, life became art again when she used an email from her boyfriend, in which he dumped her. Calle asked women to comment on his email in the language of their particular profession. A forensic psychiatrist called him a “twisted manipulator”. His character was performed by the actress Jeanne Moreau and a copy editor rubbished his syntax and grammar. The final work was exhibited at the Venice Biennale and viewed by thousands of people.

“He didn’t like it but he respected the idea. I asked him if he would like to see it and he said he would look when it was finished. The way he reacted was so chic. We became close and now we are good friends. Maybe one day he will do his own version,” says Calle.

For now, Calle is working on a project less likely to upset. She consults a clairvoyant, Maud Kristen, who directs her to a place. Calle travels to the chosen location, consulting the clairvoyant along the way for guidance about what to do.

“It’s a way to live another life under somebody else. I play with her capacity, although there are strange coincidences. She sent me to Berck in northern France where she asked me to find a memorial to two dead brothers who liked boats. While I was looking at the monument, trying to find two brothers, I received a call from a friend with the last name Berque; he has a twin brother and they both like sailing.” She laughs. “Hard to believe no? I’m not lying about it. It was so amazing.”

INTERVIEW: “An Interview with Garry Winogrand” (1981)

Thursday, January 19th, 2012

INTERVIEW: “An Interview with Garry Winogrand” (1981) « ASX | AMERICAN SUBURB X | Photography & Culture.

5942081067 389c30d200 b INTERVIEW: An Interview with Garry Winogrand (1981)

From Visions and Images: American Photographers on Photography, Interviews with photographers by Barbara Diamonstein, 1981–1982, Rizoli: New York

Garry Winogrand is one of the most important photographers at work in America today. His sophisticated snapshot-aesthetic pictures celebrate ordinary events, and transform them with precise timing and framing into astute visual commentaries on modern life.

Barbaralee Diamonstein: Garry, the New School is not unfamiliar ground to you. As I recall, you studied here for a short time in the early part of your career.

Garry Winogrand: Yes. It might have been 1949.

D: You began to photograph just at that period when you were less then twenty years old. How did it all begin?

W: Cameras intrigued me.

D: You started out studying painting, though, didn’t you?

W: Yeah, well, cameras always were seductive. And then a darkroom became available, and that’s when I stopped doing anything else.

D: How does a darkroom “become available”?

W: There was a camera club at Columbia, where I was taking a painting course. And when I went down, somebody showed me how to use the stuff. That’s all. I haven’t done anything else since then, It was as simple as that. I fell into the business.

D: You started out supporting yourself with commercial work — advertising photography and such things.

W: Yes, and magazine work, industrial work. I was a hired gun, more or less.

D: Why did you decide to give all that up?

W: I enjoyed it until I stopped. You could travel and get around. I can’t really explain why, I just didn’t want to do it anymore.

D: That wasn’t very long ago

W: Well, it was 1969 when I got out of it, more or less.

D: And then you turned to teaching, as well as your own work?

W: Well, it was strange, because the phone rang and a teaching job turned up that sounded interesting. And I always did my own work. The Animals and a lot of Public Relations were done while I was doing commercial work.

D: When you refer to Public Relations, you’re really talking about the title of a book that describes a very extensive body of material you started in 1969 on a Guggenheim Fellowship. During that period, you decided to photograph the effect of the media on events. And you studied ritual public events that very often were planned for the benefit of those who were recording them. What did you find out about that period, and what were you trying to tell us in your photographs?

W: I don’t think anything happens without the press, one way or the other. I think it’s all done for it. You saw it start, really, with Martin Luther King in Birmingham. He did the bus thing. And I don’t think anything that followed would have happened if the press hadn’t paid attention. As far as my end of it, photographing, goes, all I’m interested in is pictures, frankly. I went to events, and it would have been very easy to just illustrate that idea about the relationships between the press and the event, you know. But I felt that from my end, I should deal with the thing itself, which is the event. I pretty much functioned like the media itself.

D: But weren’t you the media then?

W: I was one of them, yeah, absolutely. But maybe I was a little slyer, sometimes.

D: How so?

W: Well, at times people in the press were also useful to me, you know.

D: As subjects?

W: Oh, yeah, absolutely.

D: I’m reminded of a picture of Murray Kempton and Norman Mailer in that series at Mailer’s 50th birthday party, that has been widely reproduced and discussed in critical essays. Are any of those events ever held just for fun or for the sheer relief of the participants? Are they always done to promote an idea, a cause, a person, or a product?

W: In my experience, I think it’s the latter. I mean, people are going to have a good time, you know. One can go have a good time at these big openings in museums. And people go to have a good time. But the thing has another purpose.

D: What is the larger purpose?

W: In the case of museums, it’s always got to do with money, people who donate and things like that. And I believe a certain kind of interest has to be demonstrated. The museums want large crowds coming to the shows — it’s the same thing. It’s hype. Absolutely. But there’s nothing evil about it.

D: Are you really saying that it’s marketing?

W: A lot of it is. And then, of course, you have politics, the Vietnam war and all that monkey business. There are all kinds of reasons. At every one of those demonstrations in the late Sixties about the Vietnam war, you could guarantee there’d be a series of speeches. The ostensible purpose was to protest the war. But then somebody came up and gave a black power speech, usually Black Muslims, then. And then you’d have a women’s rights speech. It was terrible to listen to these things.

D: How was it to look at?

W: Well, it was interesting; it’s an interesting photographic problem. But if I was doing it as a job, I think I’d have to get paid extra. If I ever hear “Power to the people” again, I’llà I just found out that John Lennon wrote that song, “All we are saying is give peace a chance.” I couldn’t believe it. I thought it was terrible; I hated that song. They used to bring out the Pete Seeger wind-up toy to sing it. Tiresome.

D: I hope that what I’m going to bring up won’t be tiresome for you, too. The term “street photography” and your name have been synonymous for quite some time. But the streets are not the only place where you’ve worked over the last twenty-five years or so. You’ve worked in zoos and aquaria, Metropolitan Museum of Art openings, Texas rodeos. There must be some common thread that runs through all of your work. How would you describe it?

5942081031 eb9b5511fe b Custom INTERVIEW: An Interview with Garry Winogrand (1981)

W: Well, I’m not going to get into that. I think that those kind of distinctions and lists of titles like “street photographer” are so stupid.

D: How would you prefer to describe yourself?

W: I’m a photographer, a still photographer. That’s it.

D: If you don’t like “street photographer,” how do you respond to that other tiresome phrase’, “snapshot aesthetic”?

W: I knew that was coming. That’s another stupidity. The people who use the term don’t even know the meaning. They use it to refer to photographs they believe are loosely organized, or casually made, whatever you want to call it. Whatever terms you like. The fact is, when they’re talking about snapshots they’re talking about the family album picture, which is one of the most precisely made photographs. Everybody’s fifteen feet away and smiling. The sun is over the viewer’s shoulder. That’s when the picture is taken, always. It’s one of the most carefully made photographs that ever happened. People are just dumb. They misunderstand.

D: That’s an interesting point, particularly coming from someone who takes — or rather, composes and then snaps— lightning-fast shots.

W: I’ll say this, I’m pretty fast with a camera when I have to be. However, I think it’s irrelevant. I mean, what if I said that every photograph I made was set up? From the photograph, you can’t prove otherwise. You don’t know anything from the photograph about how it was made, really. But every photograph could be set up. If one could imagine it, one could set it up. The whole discussion is a way of not talking about photographs.

D: Well, what would be a better way to describe that?

W: See, I don’t think time is involved in how the thing is made. It’s like, “There I was 40,000 feet in the air,” whatever. You’ve got to deal with how photographs look, what’s there, not how they’re made. Even with what camera.

D: So what is really important?

W: It’s the photograph.

D: It’s how you organize complex situations or material to make a picture?

W: The picture, right. Not how I do anything. In the end, maybe the correct language would be how the fact of putting four edges around a collection of information or facts transforms it. A photograph is not what was photographed, it’s something else.

D: Does it really not matter what kind of equipment you use?

W: Oh, I know what I like to use myself. I use Leicas, but when I look at the photograph, I don’t ask the photograph questions. Mine or anybody else’s. The only time I’ve ever dealt with that kind of thing is when I’m teaching. You talk about people who are interested in “how.” But when I look at photographs, I couldn’t care less “how.” You see?

D: What do you look for?

W: I look at a photograph. What’s going on? What’s happening, photographically? If it’s interesting, I try to understand why.

D: And how do you expect the viewer to respond to your photographs?

W: I have no expectations. None at all.

D: Well, what do you want to evoke?

W: I have no ideas on that subject. Two people could look at the same flowers and feel differently about them. Why not? I’m not making ads. I couldn’t care less. Everybody’s entitled to their own experience.

D: You describe very complex relationships photographically, in a very sympathetic way, but a very humorous one. Often you do that with juxtaposition, whether in zoos or rodeos or museum celebrations. Let’s talk about your animal project. There, as in so much of your work, juxtapositions and gestures that usually pass unnoticed are very significant. You find them worth recording. Here you were, a city boy, how did you come to do a project that involved spending so much time in zoos? Do animals interest you that much?

W: Well, zoos are always in cities. Where else can they afford them, you know? When I was a kid in New York I used to go to the zoo. I always liked the zoo. I grew up within walking distance of the Bronx Zoo. And then when my first two children were young, I used to take them to the zoo. Zoos are always interesting. And I make pictures. Actually, the animal pictures came about in a funny way. I made a few shots. If you could see those contact sheets, they’re mostly of the kids and maybe a few shots where I’m just playing. And at some point I realized something was going on in some of those pictures, so then I worked at it.

D: Consciously?

W: Yes. Then at some point I realized it made sense as a book. So that’s what happened.

D: How important are humor and irony in your work?

W: I don’t know. See, I don’t get involved, frankly, in that way. When I see something, I know why something’s funny or seems to be funny. But in the end it’s just another picture as far as I’m concerned.

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D: When you looked at those contact sheets, you noticed that something was going on. I’ve often wondered how a photographer who takes tens of thousands of photographs — and by now it may even be hundreds of thousands of photographs — keeps track of the material. How do you know what you have, and how do you find it?

W: Badly. That’s all I can say. There’ve been times it’s been just impossible to find a negative or whatever. But I’m basically just a one man operation, and so things get messed up. I don’t have a filing system that’s worth very much.

D: But don’t you think that’s important to your work?

W: I’m sure it is, but I can’t do anything about it. It’s hopeless. I’ve given up. You just go through a certain kind of drudgery every time you have to look for something. I’ve got certain things grouped by now, but there’s a drudgery in finding them. There’s always stuff missing.

D: You sold your very first work to the Museum of Modern Art. How did Edward Steichen come to know your work?

W: I had an agent. When Steichen was doing “The Family of Man”, I went up to the office one day. I think Wayne Miller, who assisted Steichen with “The Family of Man,” was up there and pulled out a bunch of pictures. So I got a message: “Take these pictures, call Steichen, make an appointment and take these pictures up there.” And that’s how I met him.

D: Did the museum buy any?

W: Yes, they bought some for that show.

D: How many did they buy? That was about 1960.

W: I don’t remember.

D: Do you remember how much they paid for them?

W: Ten bucks each. Nobody sold prints then and prices didn’t mean anything. In terms of earning your living, it was a joke.

D: Did you ever expect the public to celebrate the works of photographers either aesthetically or economically?

W: No. First of all, I don’t know if they’re celebrating. But yeah, I’m shocked that I can live pretty well, or reasonably, or make a certain amount of my living, anyway, off of prints. I guess it’s nuts. I don’t believe in it. I never anticipated it; I still don’t believe it.

D: How do you explain the current rise of interest in photography?

W: Oh, I’m sure some of it has to do with taxes, tax shelter things. There are all kinds of reasons. There are people who like photography; there are people who are worrying about what’s going to happen with the dollar. They want to get anything that seems hard. I don’t know, but I think it’s got to do with economics. Now and then you get somebody who buys a picture because he likes it.

D: What about all those young people who are so interested in photography?

W: They don’t buy pictures. Young people don’t have money to buy pictures. I don’t really have any faith in anybody enjoying photographs in a large enough sense to matter. I think it’s all about finances, on one side. And then there are people who are socially ambitious. If you go back aways, the Sculls, for instance, had a lot of money and they were socially ambitious. If you get an old master, it’s not going to do you any good socially.

D: Besides, you can’t get enough of them.

W: And likewise even French impressionists. So the Sculls bought pop. It was politics, and they moved with it. And I think that could be happening, to some degree, with photography, too. It doesn’t cost as much to do it, either.

D: Then you don’t have much faith in the longevity of the surge of interest, either economic or aesthetic, in photography. Do you see it as something typical of this moment?

W: I don’t know what you mean by aesthetic.

D: Well, we’re assigning the surge of interest to economic reasons, rather than the fact that more and more people think of photography as a legitimate art form.

W: I don’t care how they think of it. Some of these people are acquiring some very good pictures by a lot of different photographers.

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D: For whatever motivation…

W: Right. Who cares?

D: But if their interest is economically engendered, then photography could be a short term pursuit.

W: Possibly. I’ll take one day at a time; that’s enough! I have no idea what’s going to happen. Who knows — if they can’t afford to buy a boat, maybe they buy a print. Who knows what happens with their buck?

D: When I was taking your photograph earlier today, with well-intended whimsy I tilted my camera in an attempt to make my own Winogrand. From what I understand, that’s not how it’s done. What is the meaning of the horizontal tilted frame that you often use? And is your camera tilted when you make the picture?

W: It isn’t tilted, no.

D: What are you doing?

W: Well, look, there’s an arbitrary idea that the horizontal edge in a frame has to be the point of reference. And if you study those pictures, you’ll see I use the vertical often enough. I use either edge. If it’s as good as the vertical edge, it’s as good as the horizontal edge. I never do it without a reason. The only ones you’ll see are the ones that work. There’s various reasons for doing it. But they’re not tilted, you see.

D: How do you create that angle, then?

W: You use the vertical edge as the point of reference, instead of the horizontal edge. I have a picture of a beggar, where there’s an arm coming into the frame from the side. And the arm is parallel to the horizontal edge and it makes it work. It’s all games, you know. But it keeps it interesting to do, to play.

D: There is another photograph that has an arm coming in from that edge, in almost Sistine Chapel fashion. That arm and the hand on the end of it are feeding the trunk of an elephant.

W: Oh, you mean the cover of the animal book. That has nothing to do with what I’m talking about now. It’s just that I carry an arm around with me, you know. I wouldn’t be caught dead without that arm!

D: Has teaching affected the way you take photographs?

W: I really don’t know.

D: Do you learn a great deal from your students? Do you have any new ideas, any reactions to their reactions?

W: No, the only thing that happens when I’m teaching is that I hope there are some students out there in the class who will ask questions. Teaching is only interesting because you struggle with trying to talk about photographs, photographs that work, you see. Teaching doesn’t relate to photographing, at least not for me. But now and then I’ll get a student who asks a question that puts me up against the wall and maybe by the end of the semester I can begin to deal with the question. You know what I mean. It’s not easy.

D: Several years ago a student did ask you which qualities in a picture make it interesting instead of dead. And you replied with a telling statement describing what photography is all about. You said you didn’t know what something would look like in a photograph until it had been photographed. A rather simple sentence that you used has been widely identified with you, and that sentence is: “I photograph to find out what something will look like photographed.” That was about five or six years ago. And I know there are few things that displease you more than being bored. So I would hope that you have since amended or extended that idea. How would you express it now?

W: Well, I don’t think it was that simple then, either. There are things I photograph because I’m interested in those things. But in the end, you know what I’m saying there. Earlier tonight, I said the photograph isn’t what was photographed, it’s something else. It’s about transformation. And that’s what it is. That hasn’t changed, largely. But it’s not that simple. Let’s put it this way — I photograph what interests me all the time. I live with the pictures to see what that thing looks like photographed. I’m saying the same thing; I’m not changing it. I photograph what interests me. I’m not saying anything different, you see.

D: Well, what is it about a photograph that makes it alive or dead?

W: How problematic it is! It’s got to do with the contention between content and form. Invariably that’s what’s responsible for its energies, its tensions, its being interesting or not. There are photographs that function just to give you information. I never saw a pyramid, but I’ve seen photographs; I know what a pyramid or a sphinx looks like. There are pictures that do that, but they satisfy a different kind of interest. Most photographs are of life, what goes on in the world. And that’s boring, generally. Life is banal, you know. Let’s say that an artist deals with banality. I don’t care what the discipline is.

D: And how do you find the mystery in the banal?

W: Well, that’s what’s interesting. There is a transformation, you see, when you just put four edges around it. That changes it. A new world is created.

D: Does that discreet context make it more descriptive, and by transforming it give it a whole new layer of meaning?

W: You’re asking me why that happens. Aside from the fact of just taking things out of context, I don’t know why. That’s part of a mystery. In a way, a transformation is a mystery to me. But there is a transformation, and that’s fascinating. Just think how minimal somebody’s family album is. But you start looking at one of them, and the word everybody will use is “charming.” Something just happened. It’s automatic, just operating a camera intelligently. You’ve got a lot going for you, you see. By just describing well with it, something happens.

D: There are a number of photographers who have things happen in their work that you have responded to over an extended period of time. Whose work have you found was of importance to, or influenced, yours?

W: Well, we could talk about hope, that’s all. I hope I learned something from Evans and Frank and I could make a big list.

D: In what way did they inform your work, your vision, or your life?

W: I’ll just talk about Evans’ and Frank’s work. I don’t know how to say easily what I learned. One thing I can say I learned is how amazing photography could be. I think it was the first time I was really moved by photographs.

D: Did you know Walker Evans?

W: No, not really. We weren’t friends.

D: Cartier-Bresson and Kertesz?

W: I met Bresson once in Paris. Kertesz I probably know a little better. But I’m not friends with those people. I’m not friends with Robert. I’ve known Robert for a long time.

D: But you are closely associated with a number of contemporary photographers, your contemporaries.

W: Oh sure. Lee Friedlander, Tod Papageorge.

D: Tod Papageorge, a first rate photographer in his own right, was the curator of an exhibition of yours called “Public Relations.” How did that come about, that one photographer not only is the curator of another’s exhibition, but also writes the introduction to his work?

W: Ask John Szarkowski. It wasn’t my idea. I mean, he did ask me if it was okay with me, and I was delighted.

D: Did you all stalk the streets together?

W: No, we don’t work together. We might meet for lunch or something, and maybe happen to saunter around a bit in the process. But we don’t do expeditions.

D: Just exhibitions. In 1967 your work was exhibited at the Museum of Modern Art, with Lee Friedlander’s and Diane Arbus’. Do you feel that the three of you were a likely combination? Or were there important differences? Were you part of the same school?

W: Oh, we’re all radically different. John gave the show a title “New Documents”, and there was a little bit of written explanation. I would go by that. I don’t remember what was written, though.

D: Has the Museum of Modern Art been very influential in your own career?

W: I don’t know. I mean, it doesn’t have anything to do with what I do. Probably has made some differences in my sales, I wouldn’t be surprised. Again, you have to ask other people, because I don’t have a measuring device. There are photographers whose shows I try to make it my business to see, if I’m in the city. There are photographers I have no interest in at all.

D: Tell me about the ones that interest you.

W: Tod or Hank Wessel, Bill Dane, Paul McConough, Steve Shore. Robert Adams, for sure. I’m ready to see what they do. Nicholas Nixon, also, I would make it my business to see. There’s a lot of people working reasonably intelligently.

D: How important is that much criticized aspect æof photography — the mechanical, duplicatable printing aspect — to the quality of the work? How much time do you spend in your darkroom? Do you develop your own work?

W: I develop my own film. And I work in spurts. I pile it up.

D: How far behind are you?

W: There’s two ways I’m behind, in developing and in printing. It’s not easily measurable. I’m a joke. That’s the way I am; I mean, that’s just the way I work. I’ve never felt overwhelmed. I know it gets done.

D: Do you have any assistants who work with you?

W: Well, I have a good friend who’s a very good printer. And he does a certain amount of printing for me. I do all the developing. If somebody’s going to goof my film, I’d better do it. I don’t want to get that mad at anybody else.

D: How often does the unexpected or the goof happen when you work? And how often does it turn out to be a happy surprise?

W: I’m talking about technical goofs. I’m pretty much on top of it. The kind of picture you’re referring to would have to be more about the effects of technical things, technical phenomena, and I’m just not interested in that kind of work at all. I’ve goofed, and there’s been something interesting, but I haven’t made use of it. It just doesn’t interest me.

D: Are there any of your photographs that you would describe as being key in the development and evolution of your work?

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W: No, I don’t deal with them that way either.

D: How do you deal with them?

W: I don’t know. I don’t go around looking at my pictures. I sometimes think I’m a mechanic. I just take pictures. When the time comes, for whatever reason, I get involved in editing and getting some prints made and stuff. There are things that interest me. But I don’t really mull over them a lot.

D: Well, what interests you the most? What’s the most important thing to know about your work?

W: I think there’s some stuff that’s at least photographically interesting. There are things I back off from trying to talk about, you know. Particularly my own work. Also, there may be things better left unsaid. At times I’d much rather talk about other work.

D: Your work, particularly in Public Relations, has often been compared to the work of that master press photographer, Weegee. Do you see any comparisons or similarities?

W: No, I think we’re different. First of all, he dealt with very different things. I don’t know who makes that comparison. It doesn’t make sense to me at all.

D: Tell us about your new book.

W: It’s called Stock Photographs. It was done at the Fort Worth livestock show and rodeo. I was commissioned to shoot there by the Fort Worth Art Museum for a show. You shoot one year and the show is the next year, when the rodeo is in town. It was a big group show. I was the only photographer. There was a videotape guy and some sculptors: Red Grooms, Rauschenberg, Terry Allen. I think I hung some, I forget, sixty or so pictures in the show. And at the opening, somebody asked me if I was going to make a book out of it. And I knew I wouldn’t. I mean, if I was going to make a book, I’d want to shoot more. You know, you do a book, and you want it to be a crackerjack of a book. Anyway, this person gave me the idea, the next year I went and did some shooting, and then the following year I did some more. And that was it. I probably shot a total of fourteen days, give or take.

D: You were teaching in Texas then, so you had some familiarity with cowboys and the West. It’s been said that those rodeo pictures don’t tell very pleasant truths. The image of the cowboy hero is somewhat deflated. Was that your intent?

W: My intention is to make interesting photographs. That’s it, in the end. I don’t make it up. Let’s say it’s a world I never made. That’s what was there to deal with.

D: But one does select what one photographs, and what one doesn’t…

W: Well, if you take a good look at the book, it’s largely a portrait gallery of faces — faces that I found dramatic. And some of those turned out to be reasonably dramatic photographs. But that’s all it is, I think. They’re in action; there’s people dancing. Plus some actual rodeo action and some other animal pictures, livestock stuff. That’s the way we’re living. It’s one world in this world. But it’s not coverage; it’s a record of my subjective interests.

D: There is another record that you made of one of your interests, at least at the time! I’m referring to the book on women. How did you assemble that collection?

W: It’s the same thing, you know. I’m still compulsively interested in women. It’s funny, I’ve always compulsively photographed women. I still do. I may very well do “Son of Women are Beautiful.” I certainly have the work. I mean, I have the pictures if I wanted to try to get something like that published. It would be a joke.

D: Do you intend to?

W: No. That’s all we need, another book like that! The thing that was interesting about doing that book was my difficulty in dealing with the pictures. When the woman is attractive, is it an interesting picture, or is it the woman? I had a lot of headaches with that, which was why it was interesting. I don’t think I always got it straight. I don’t think it was that straight, either. I think it’s an interesting book, but I don’t think it’s as good as the other books I’ve done.

D: Which book did you enjoy most? Are there any projects that were more satisfying to you, while you were putting them together or when they became public, in books or exhibitions?

W: No. I enjoy photographing. It’s always interesting, so I can’t say one thing is more fun than another. Everything has it’s own difficulties.

D: When Tod Papageorge was the curator of one of your exhibitions at the Museum of Modern Art, he observed that you do not create pictures of significant form, but rather of signifying form. What does that phrase mean?

W: I think that’s what photographic description is about. That’s how a camera describes things.

D: Throughout your work, there is a narrative voice, and an active one at that. Do you agree?

W: I generally deal with something happening. So let’s say that what’s out there is a narrative. Often enough, the picture plays with the question of what actually is happening. Almost the way puns function. They call the meaning of things into question. You know, why do you laugh at a pun? Language is basic to all of our existences in this world. We depend on it. So a pun calls the meaning of a word into question, and it upsets us tremendously. We laugh because suddenly we find out we’re not going to get killed. I think a lot of things work that way with photographs.

D: In much of your work you’ve described contemporary America. Do you find any recurring themes, or any iconography that either engages your attention or should engage ours?

W: Well, you said it before, women in pictures. Aside from women, I don’t know. My work doesn’t function the way Robert Frank’s did.

D: What are you working on now?

W: I’ve been living in Los Angeles and photographing there. That’s it.

D: Any particular subject matter?

W: No. I’m all over the place. Literally.

D: And then you’re going to look at those contact sheets and realize once again that the work comes together — as a book, or something else.

W: I really try to divorce myself from any thought of possible use of this stuff. That’s part of the discipline. My only purpose while I’m working is to try to make interesting photographs, and what to do with them is another act — a later consideration. Certainly while I’m working, I want them to be as useless as possible.

D: What made you move to Los Angeles?

W: I wanted to photograph there. But I’ll come back to New York. I think I’ll start focusing in more on the entertainment business. I have been doing some of that already, all kinds of monkey business. But I’m all over the place, literally.

D: When you say the entertainment business, do you mean things that relate to movies?

W: Yes, movies. You know, the lots, et cetera.

D: Rather than the “stars”?

W: Whatever. I may very well move in. I just don’t know. I can’t sit here and know what pictures I’m going to take.

D: Is environment — location — a very important influence on your photographs?

W: Well, Los Angeles has interested me for a long time. I was in Texas for five years, for the same reason. I wanted to photograph there. And the only way you can do it is to live there. So I’m living in Los Angeles for a couple of years. I’ve been a gypsy for quite a while. It’ll come to an end. I’m going to come back to New York. I’m a New Yorker. Matter of fact, the more I’m in places like Texas and California, the more I know I’m a New Yorker. I have no confusions. About that.

D: We’ve talked about the influence of people like Walker Evans and Cartier-Bresson and Robert Frank, of course, on your work. How would you contrast your work to theirs?

W: I wouldn’t. We’re different, I think. With Evans, if nothing else, it’s just in terms of the time we photograph. And my attitude to a lot of things is different from Evans’. Let’s say I have a different kind of respect for the things in the world than he does. I have a different kind of seriousness. This might be misunderstood, but I certainly think that my attitude is different. And generally the cameras I use, and how I use them, are different. The things that he photographs describe a certain kind of exquisite taste. And let’s say the things I photograph may describe a lack of that. You know what I mean? He was like a very good shopper.

D: And you?

W: I think the problem is different. I was thinking about him and Atget. The things they photographed were often beautiful, and that’s a hell of a problem, to photograph something that’s beautiful to start with, you see. The photograph should be more interesting or more beautiful than what was photographed. I deal with much more mundane objects, at least. I don’t really; actually, I deal with it all. I can’t keep away from the other things, but I don’t avoid garbage.

D: Do you think that some of those mundane objects are a holdover from your early commercial work?

W: No, no, I don’t.

D: You worked in advertising for a long while. Did that influence your work?

W: I doubt it. I mean, I was able to work with two heads. If anything, doing ads and other commercial work were at least exercises in discipline.

D: Would you advise a young photographer who had to earn a living to turn to teaching or to commercial work like advertising?

W: You’d have to deal with a specific person. There’s all kinds of people teaching who don’t do anything worth a nickel. Likewise in advertising. Then there are some people who do get it together, so I wouldn’t make any generalizations. You know if a specific person was asking me such questions, I might think I could tell well enough to say. Or I might say nothing. I don’t know.

D: What general advice would you give to young photographers? What should they be doing?

W: The primary problem is to learn to be your own toughest critic. You have to pay attention to intelligent work, and to work at the same time. You see. I mean, you’ve got to bounce off better work. It’s a matter of working.

D: Do you photograph every day?

W: Just about, yes..

D: But you don’t develop every day?

W: Hell no! No way.

D: John Szarkowski called you the central photographer of your generation. That’s very high praise.

W: Right. It is.

D: But it’s also an enormous burden.

W: No, no problem at all. What has it got to do with working? When I’m photographing, I don’t have that kind of nonsense running around in my head. I’m photographing. It’s irrelevant in the end, so it doesn’t mean a thing. It’s not going to make me do better work or worse work as I can see it now.

D: Did you ever expect your life to unfold the way it has?

W: No, of course not. I mean, it’s ridiculous. I had no idea. How can you know?

D: What did you have in mind?

W: Surviving, that’s all. That’s all I have in mind right now.

D: Flourishing, too?

W: That’s unexpected. But I’m surviving. I’m a survivor. That’s the way I understand it.

D: What are you going to do next? Do you have any exhibitions or books planned?

W: No, nothing cooking, not at the moment. Just shooting, that’s enough. It’s a lot of work organizing something, whether it’s a show or a book, and I don’t want to do it every day.

D: You have enormous curiosity that propels you from one project to the other.

W: I don’t think of them as projects. All I’m doing is photographing. When I was working on The Animals, I was working on a lot of other things too. I kept going to the zoo because things were going on in certain pictures. It wasn’t a project.

D: Do you think that’s the way most photographers work?

W: I don’t know. I know what happens. I have boxes of pictures that nothing is ever going to happen to. Even Public Relations. I mean, I was going to events long before, and I still am.

D: Have you ever had any particularly difficult assignments or photographic moments?

W: No, the only thing that’s difficult is reloading when things are happening. Can you get it done fast enough?

D: You obviously have some secret because you are known as the fastest camera aroundà

W: Well, I don’t know if I’m really the fastest. It doesn’t matter. I don’t think of it as difficult. It would be difficult if I were carrying something heavy, but I carry Leicas. You can’t talk about it that way. I’m not operating a shovel and getting tired.

D: You said earlier that you sometimes think of yourself as a mechanic. Do you also think of yourself as an artist?

W: I probably am. I don’t think about it, either. But, if I have to think, yeah, I guess so.

ASX CHANNEL: Garry Winogrand

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GARRY WINOGRAND: “Garry Winogrand, Public Eye” (1981)

Thursday, January 19th, 2012

GARRY WINOGRAND: “Garry Winogrand, Public Eye” (1981) « ASX | AMERICAN SUBURB X | Photography & Culture.

CRI 197445 GARRY WINOGRAND: Garry Winogrand, Public Eye (1981)

By Pepe Karmel

Photography critics raised on the classical elegances of Stieglitz and Cartier-Bresson still consider Garry Winogrand’s photographs haphazard snapshots, mach as 19th century academic critics saw the first Impressionist canvases as mere sketches, lacking the finish, composition and clear drawing essential to “good” pictures. To neoclassical photography critics, Winongrand’s photographs appear deliberately uncomposed. Janet Malcolm writes that Winogrand “embraces disorder and vulgarity like long lost brothers.” He has abandoned Cartier-Bresson’s criteria that a photograph should achieve “the appearance of a formal work of art,” and that the photographer should capture the “decisive moment” of a gesture or event. Since Winogrand’s canonization in 1977 by the Museum of Modern Art’s mammoth show of his pictures of “media events,” he has become a major scapegoat for those who disliked the experimental photography of the 1960′s and ’70′s.

Winogrand’s first comprehensive retrospective, at New York’s Light Gallery last April, made it clear that this photographer, like the Impressionists, simply has a new idea of what constitutes a decisive moment. Winogrand’s predecessor in exploring the limits of photographic form and content was Robert Frank. In his superb catalogue essay for Winogrand’s 1977 show, “Public Relations,” Tod Papageorge pinpointed in Frank’s photographs from The Americans three devices that influenced Winogrand: the tilting of the picture frame, the use of a wide-angle lens and the particular way Frank tested the limits of scale – by, in Frank’s words, seeing “how small a thing could be in a frame and still sit as its nominal subject.” The tilted frame is a metaphor for an off-balance experience of reality. At the same time, it declares the esthetic independence of the photograph from the reality which it depicts by twisting the frame away from the “natural” verticals and horizontals of buildings and horizons. In addition, Winogrand often tilts his camera to get into the picture everything he sees as part of the scene.

CRI 140247 GARRY WINOGRAND: Garry Winogrand, Public Eye (1981)Centennial Ball, Metropolitan Museum, New York, 1969

Winogrand’s 28mm, extremely wide-angle lens serves the same purpose, only more so. Getting as much stuff in as possible is his imperative. Winogrand’s pictures are usually packed with astounding quantities of incident and “information,” a catchword popular among practitioners and students of street photography during the early ’70′s. It is on the city street that every human action is likely to be surrounded by a maximum of buildings, signs, shop windows, shopping bags, policeman, cars, and other people. In this setting, “testing the limits of scale” becomes a virtuoso game. Photography rulebooks are full of instructions on getting close to a subject, framing it carefully so it dominates the picture, and cutting out distracting detail. Winogrand deliberately breaks all these rules. Jacob Javit’s face, buried in a sea of other faces at the Metropolitan Museum’s 1969 Centennial Ball, emerges as a compositional nexus, successfully balancing the figures of the young couple in the left foreground. Of course, the photographic egalitarianism implicit in the aggrandizement of nearby figures is a mechanical consequence of using a wide-angle lens; Winogrand’s accomplishment is to take advantage of this effect while at the same time situating the “nominal subject” in such a way that it remains the pivot of the image.

Winogrand’s Light retrospective, selected by the photographer together with Light’s director, Peter MacGill, followed the grouping of pictures in his four major published collections: The Animals, Women Are Beautiful, Public Relations, and Stock Photographs. The retrospective was not accompanied by a catalogue or biography, but Papageorge’s essay in Public Relations lays out the relevant facts of Winogrand’s life and career. Only a few essentials will be repeated here. Winogrand was born in 1928. Beginning at the age of 24, and for almost two decades, he worked as a photojournalist and an advertising photographer. Only in the early 1960′s did he begin to be recognized as an “art” photographer.

CRI 139627 GARRY WINOGRAND: Garry Winogrand, Public Eye (1981)Demonstration outside Madison Square Garden, New York, 1968

His first solo show at the Modern, and first book, The Animals (1969), was represented in the Light retrospective by several pictures which have become classics: the walrus staring from its pool at the photographer while a family peers through the pool’s railing at it, the lupine young man courting a blond woman while an actual wolf paces in its cage behind them, and other images from New York zoos exposing an animal world full of depression, frustration, and rage, not unlike the modern world around it. In using animals to comment on the human condition, Winogrand continued a long tradition, running from Aesop’s Fables to Walt Kelly’s Okefenokee Swamp. Winogrand’s work insists on the humanity of animals as well as the bestiality of humans. His photograph of an interracial couple, holding chimpanzees, has been attacked by leftist critic Victor Burgin as a racist joke, a photographic depiction of the white fantasy that the children of “miscengenation” would be monkeys. But the joke, of course, belongs to the couple: they, after all, have chosen to confront and parody racist antagonism toward their relationship by carrying their pet chimps around in public. Winogrand becomes an accomplice in their joke by including in the picture a small white boy whose anxiety contrasts with the contentedness of the simian “children”.

Winogrand’s next book collection, Women Are Beautiful, appeared in 1975. Winogrand had photographed women everywhere – in swimming pools, in cafeterias, at society parties – but most of all he photographed them in the streets and parks of New York. Avoiding the posed nude or portrait, Winogrand explored how women express their sexuality in social settings, through dress, dancing, sunbathing, flirting and gossiping. In Winogrand’s photographs, sex becomes an individualizing force – not, as it usually is in photographs, a depersonalizing one. Indeed, it is the sexual connection that defines the complicated relationship between the photographer and his subjects. Winogrand’s pictures express both his desire and his frustration, most eloquently entwined where he has simply confronted a woman on the street, sometimes in mid-stride, somtimes pausing for his lens. The cover image from Women Are Beautiful, included in the Light retrospective, shows a laughing woman holding an ice cream cone, standing in front of an Atget-style shopwindow that displays a male mannequin. The woman’s laugh can be read as a laugh of joy – joy in life, pleasure in her melting ice cream cone (the melting of the phallic cone symbolizing sexual release?), pleasure in the photographer’s desire for her. But her laugh might also be read as rejection, as if to say that she finds the photographer’s courtship (his desire to photograph her) merely laughable. Perhaps the elegant mannequin in the shopwindow is the photographer’s tacit rival – an appropriate suitor, attired to complement the elegance of her simple white dress, her black handbag, the gloves in her hand, the satin lining of her coat. Winogrand’s own reflection in the window reveals, by comparison, a rather rumpled Lothario.

CRI 126893 GARRY WINOGRAND: Garry Winogrand, Public Eye (1981)Reopening, Waldorf Astoria Peacock Alley, New York, 1971

The largest group of images in the Light retrospective came from the 1977 “Public Relations” show at MOMA. The Public Relations project orginated with a 1969 Guggenheim Fellowship to photograph “media events”. These images place the photographer in an ambiguous position. He may scorn those who demean themselves before the lens, but he envies their power to command his camera’s attention. At first glance, Winogrand’s photograph of a 1973 press conference given by Elliot Richardson gives the eerie impression that no human beings are present to listen to Richardson, isolated at a bare table loaded with microphones; tape recorders cluster like mechanical disciples at his feet. American politics in the electronic age have come a long way from the rabble-rousing of Huey Long. What is remarkable is that the man who can command so much attention is so ordinary.

Opposed to Elliot Richardson’s (and Richard Nixon’s) catatonic chic was the hyper-energetic youth culture of rock-and-roll, long hair, and anti-war demonstrations. This milieu fascinated Winogrand as well, and it is easy to characterize him as a 1960′s sensibility, a photographic equivalent of the New Journalist Tom Wolfe. But the era’s public sensibility was not Winogrand’s own. Winogrand was 40 in 1968, when the generational slogan was: “Don’t trust anyone over 30.” Feelings of empathy and estrangement compete in his photograph of Bethesda Fountain plaza on Easter Sunday, 1971. The naked young man approaching the camera seems possessed like a Dionysian figure, his face mingling ecstasy and alarm. The amused, incredulous crowd behind him manifests the conjunction of the youth of different backgrounds around common ideals and fantasies. But the two foreground figures flanking the naked Dionysus are full of anxiety and indecision. Strangely, they are looking away from him, beyond the camera, as if into the future towards which he is advancing, unsure whether Dionysian ectasy will be adequate to contend with it.

CRI 126869 GARRY WINOGRAND: Garry Winogrand, Public Eye (1981)Untitled, 1963

A similar fervor appears in Winogrand’s party pictures of the “glitterati,” at the height of “radical chic,” doing the twist while Rome – or Detroit – burns. These pictures derive from Weegee’s The Critic, with the poor woman tramp glaring fiercely at two bubble-headed, jewel-bedecked dowagers. (Wingrand’s use of flash also owes much to Weegee.) But Winogrand basically has an indulgent, even admiring attitude toward the rich, powerful, and renowned: he seems to feel at heart that they are awfully lucky to be able to make such fools of themselves, without worrying about the consequences. As the reporter Mike says in The Philadelphia Story, “there’s no finer sight in this world than the privileged classes enjoying their privileges.” If anything, Winogrand grants the old and privileged an assurance and respect he denies the young. At the Metropolitan’s 1969 ball, Jacob Javits wears a self-assured smile of pleasure, while the young couple in the left foreground seem anxious and preoccupied. To paraphrase Yeats: the young lack all conviction, while the old are full of passionate intensity. One can’t help feeling that Winogrand’s sympathies are, finally on the side of passionate intensity, wherever he finds it.

The satirical bent of Public Relations dominated the Light retrospective, which skimped on the bleaker side of Winogrand’s urban vision. There were only a few of his images of the freaks, cripples and beggars who, unseen, inhabit the streets of New York. (More of his work is collected in the catalogue of Winogrand’s 1976 Grossmont College show.) Winogrand’s Greek work, shown at Light in 1979, was completely omitted. (With no profound grasp of Greek life, Winogrand had fallen back on photographing the tourist culture, with attractive but somehow predictable results.) The retrospective did include selections from Winogrand’s 1980 Stock Photographs, taken at the annual Fort Worth Fat Stock Show and Rodeo. They were notable largely for the innovative combination of action-stopping flash and movement-blurred natural light. The best of this series in the retrospective was, however, a relatively straightforward closeup of a plump young boy and a lamb, the lamb peering poignantly into the camera while the boy looks away.

Winogrand’s recent work in Los Angeles was represented by six images that look like the beginning of a new photographic infatuation, this time with extravagant automobiles and clothes of the Beverly Hills elite. The late ’70s were a relatively fallow period in Winogrand’s career as well as a dreary spell in American public life. At the beginning of the ’80s, we now seem, for better or worse, to be entering a new period of public display and exuberance. Light’s retrospective confirmed that no one will be better prepared to capture this phenomenon – and criticize it – than Garry Winogrand.

Pepe Karmel is a photography critic.

http://as.nyu.edu/docs/IO/3644/Karmel_GarryWinogrand.pdf

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(© Pepe Karmel, 1981. All rights reserved. All images © copyright the photographer and/or publisher)

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INTERVIEW: “Paul Graham with Richard Woodward” 2007

Thursday, January 19th, 2012

INTERVIEW: “Paul Graham with Richard Woodward” 2007 « ASX | AMERICAN SUBURB X | Photography & Culture.

Paul Graham 1 21 INTERVIEW: Paul Graham with Richard Woodward (2007)
Pittsburgh, 2004

Interview with Richard Woodward, New York City, June 2007

RW: Let’s start with this new book, which is actually a series of books, and work backwards. How did the project originate?

PG: Well, my principal source was from reading Chekhov’s Short Stories, and the critical essays around those. A lot of people have tried to understand why this writing works so well, since in the stories there’s not much happening. They’re dealing with the simple, everyday things—in one of them a woman is combing her hair for six pages, remembering that night at the theater; in another a school teacher is coming home in a cart dreaming of meeting the landowner, who does ride past and they exchange a few pleasantries, but nothing more. But there’s something magical about how perfectly described they are, the transparency of what’s happening, without guff or show, simply described, with nothing proscribed.

I’ve been traveling around the States for a while now, and wanted to do something looser and freer, to take pictures of people at the most ordinary, everyday moments—cutting the grass or waiting for the bus, smoking cigarettes or traveling to and from the supermarket. I wanted to reflect Chekhov’s openness, his simple transparency; this was something I tried to move toward. I’m not, of course, literally illustrating Chekhov’s stories, but simply isolating a small rivulet of time. So, each of the individual books is a photographic short story, a filmic haiku. They are quite short, but complete in their own modest way.

RW: But difficult to convey, I would think, no? The layout must have been the crucial step.

PG: Yes, in terms of making them, it was a process of letting go of one’s own pretensions and not looking for this great summation picture of any given situation. For example, while photographing a man smoking at a bus stop in Vegas, I just had to slow down, take a step back, and realize that the moment before and the moment after are just as valuable as the instant when he takes the perfect drag on the cigarette.

The multiple book form is the most logical development of this—ten or twelve volumes each holding one or two stories within their pages; self-contained yet linked to each other. And I’m fortunate enough to have Michael Mack and Gerhard Steidl support this. One book has just a single picture in it; another has 64 pages of images taken at an intersection in New Orleans, watching life roll by.

RW: Where was the picture of the lawn mowing man taken? It’s fantastic.

PG: Thank you. it’s in Pittsburgh. That was one of my early road trips and I really wasn’t expecting much. When I set out I thought, I’ll never be able to do anything good, so I’ll just have fun, and see the country a bit. But then I saw this guy cutting the grass. It’s kind of perfect that his shirt is a riff on the American flag too.

RW: What I like about the work is that you are clearly dissatisfied with the confines of traditional documentary but you haven’t made the jump, as so many do, to video. You haven’t given into temptations…

PG: …like staging my work. I’ve never wanted to become a filmmaker. I’ve always seen the two major tropes in photography as the studio and the street. And I’m a street person. I don’t get tired of trying to understand and look at the wonderful amazing nature of what’s around us. Yes, I have dissatisfaction with classic documentary language. It was wonderful when it was invented. But it has to be alive, to grow, develop, just like the spoken word. We don’t speak the same way we spoke in 1938 or 1956, so why should we make pictures the same way?

RW: But the dissatisfaction of others, particularly with the narrative limitations of photography, has led them to add sound or moving image sequences. You seem determined—and happy—to stay within the boundaries.

PG: Well, some might see these books as leading toward building a narrative.

RW: Clearly.

PG: Part of this is about the new flexibility of digital photography. You are able to shoot and shoot and then look at everything on screen. The technology does liberate people. You can get remarkable quality, close to 4×5, working on the street.

RW: But you are clearly an outsider and we never learn much about these people.

PG: I have no problem with that. I don’t want to feign being intimate with somebody I meet 5 minutes ago. I accept and embrace that so much in life is “ships passing in the dark.” The world is comprised of 99.9% strangers.

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RW: Is that what you don’t like about photojournalism, the pretense of intimacy that is there?

PG: It’s undoubtedly there in some photojournalism. But I have more problems with the motives and uses of photojournalism — the clichéd stories they tell, or the way photography is used to service a written story. There is of course some great and rare exceptions that far exceed this criticism, but we have to be honest: so much in photography is pabulum, and aspires to nothing beyond well-worn vernacular.

RW: Let’s move backward. Who were the important photographers to you when you were starting out in England?

PG: The important photographers for me belong in that period from 1966 to 1976, mostly American, let’s say from “New Documents” to “New Topographics”. It was a profound creative period for photography. Szarkowski at MoMA radicalized things for photographers by creating an artistic territory to operate in that wasn’t there before. Before, you were either an editorial photographer working for magazines in a semi-documentary style, or a fine-art photographer making pictures of landscapes or nudes or rocks. He swept aside that division and showed that people like Diane Arbus and Garry Winogrand were making the most profound photographic work of our time, and though it looked like ‘documentary,’ it was far more than that, and it didn’t belong in magazines, but in museums. This was transformative: bringing ‘documentary style’ work into the highest museum of our country. It’s little appreciated, but was perhaps Szarkowski’s greatest gift—recognizing and defining a new artistic space.

RW: How was that work translated for a man growing up in England?

PG: When I became aware of it in the mid 70s, it was through books. Hence my great emphasis on books in my work. Reading Public Relations, and the Diane Arbus monograph and Lee Friedlander books, was very important. I didn’t get Robert Frank at first, because it seemed almost photojournalistic, but strangely I got Eggleston right away.

RW: Really?

PG: It was an instinctual rather than an intellectual understanding. The first thing I saw of his was a promotional pamphlet for Election Eve. A friend came back from the states, and he gave me this brochure with six pictures in it. I was struck by his elliptical, tangential approach. So elegant and beautiful.

RW: So you were taking pictures by then?

PG: I learned how a camera works early on, maybe even in the Scouts… but there was no concept of what you could do with it. Seeing the work of Winogrand or Friedlander was like the proverbial light going on. The fact that you could say something profound about the world through photographs was a life-changing revelation.

RW: That’s a bold leap to make right out of the box, from the Scouts to understanding a Winogrand or Friedlander photograph.

PG: Well there were a few years between the two! I wouldn’t claim to understand everything about Winogrand’s work, though essays like Tod Papageorge’s in Public Relations are wonderful reading for anyone who cares about photography. One of the great things about this medium is that you don’t need to have an academic degree to get it; photography can be so visceral, it cuts right through language that way.

RW: Did you go out and try to take Eggleston pictures?

PG: Well, yes and no… (Laughs.) … the great open road journey photography doesn’t translate that well to the United Kingdom. It’s not that big. What I adapted was an amalgam of Eggleston and Robert Adams, and put that together with the classic British obsession with Social Critique. It became my own mash-up, if you will.

RW: Did you realize that you could have a career?

PG: A “career”—god no! Sadly I belong to that naïve alternative culture of the 70s that rejected “careers.” I did what most UK musicians and would-be rock stars did: I went on the dole. Oh, and I worked Saturdays in an arts bookshop, which meant I could order anything I wanted. I stocked the place with these amazing books: New Topographics catalogs, Robert Adams’ The New West, early Ed Ruscha books, etc. We never managed to sell any of them — they were all remaindered for 50c!

RW: But if you’re going to travel to Europe and Japan you must have figured out ways to support yourself.

PG: You sleep on friend’s floors. I traveled in an old Mini — the original Mini — and I slept in the back of that for a long time. That was uncomfortable! I ate in truck driver’s cafes, and had a friend who found out-of-date film for me. Then you do some teaching and get a small grant. The documentary-style tradition is very strong in England. Eventually I met up with Martin Parr, Chris Killip, Graham Smith, John Davis.

Then my first book, A-1 The Great North Road came out in 1983. It was a journey along the main artery of the UK, much like Alec Soth did with the Mississippi recently. Large format color, landscapes, portraits, buildings, etc. The book proved quite poisonous to that black-and-white tradition. It’s been forgotten how radical it was to work within the social documentary tradition in color, at that time. Now it’s so commonplace, people wonder what was the issue?

Within four years I published three books: A1, Beyond Caring, and Troubled Land, driven by the boundless energy of youth, no doubt… but by 1987, I we had this juggernaut of color documentary photography emerging in England; it had really taken off. Martin Parr switched to color, so did people like Tom Wood, and then our students, like Paul Seawright or Richard Billingham or Nick Waplington came along. So… I felt it was time to move on from that, before it became exhausted. For example, the mixing of landscape with war photography in Troubled Land was striking and quite successful —I had shows in NYC galleries—but what happens is that you hit this resonant note and everyone wants you to repeat it. I was invited to duplicate Troubled Land in Israel and South Africa. Commissions, dollars, travel, the whole nine yards. But I thought, I can’t do this. For better or worse, I’m one of those artists who once something is “proven,” have to drop it and find another way to scare myself.

RW: So you went to Europe?

PG: In the early to mid 80s I had made friends with a group of German photographers who were quite distinct from the Becher’s Dusseldorf school. They were mostly around Essen-Berlin: Volker Heinze, Joachim Brohm, Gosbert Adler, and Michael Schmidt too, who was running these workshops in Berlin and inviting people like John Gossage and Lewis Baltz to come over.

RW: It’s funny that that school is so unknown here. Michael Schmidt even had a one-man show at MoMA.

PG: Yes, a great show and few remember it. It’s as though the Gursky show wiped out people’s under-standing of everything else in German Photography. Gursky is much more accessible. He goes for the jugular because it is about the ‘Great Photograph.’ Of course, he succeeds, but it’s recidivist, in a way. Photographers have been trying for years to make bodies of work where images work together to build up a coherent statement. It’s not about one great picture by Robert Adams; it’s about twenty or thirty pictures that form a sensitive, intelligent reflection of the world. It’s the same with Garry Winogrand, or Robert Frank. Gursky brings it back to that “wow” moment. It sort of undoes that way of working, and reduces things to the “What a great shot!” appreciation of photography. I’m a sucker for that as much as anyone, but want people to appreciate what Robert Adams does more so.

RW: So you were hanging out with these guys and going back and forth to Europe?

PG: I actually lived in England most of the time, but I would go stay with Volker in Essen or visit Michael in Berlin. I lived in Berlin one summer; actually one photograph in New Europe is inside Michael’s apartment. We all came and went. It was a reciprocal thing. Somehow I went from being part of this English group with Martin Parr et al, to being an honorary member of this German alliance. They became much more relevant to my way of working and seeing the world. My work grew quite a bit, as all of ours did in that grouping, and when it was finished, in 1992, I released the book New Europe. That was made for the opening exhibition for the Fotomuseum Winterthur in Switzerland, but the book was never distributed here in the U.S. so it’s not so well known. Gerry Badger insisted it be included in The Photobook II so at least someone saw it.

RW: One of the paradoxes of our time, and I’ve discussed this with many people, is this explosion of photography books at the same time as the explosion in new media. Every photographer has his or her own website and gets their information on-line. And yet they all still want to make books. What is the enduring appeal?

PG: John Gossage made a great comment that his books are the original work. It’s the summation of one’s endeavors—the book is the work. Now, a painter or a sculptor can have a catalogue of their work but… it’s completely different in photography. It is the exact thing—maybe a little smaller scale—but with a one-on-one dialogue when you read it. Looking at a Nan Goldin book is quite different from viewing her photographs on the wall with other people around you. The book is personal and direct, from the artist to you, complete and faithful.

RW: That’s true. When you’re looking at images on-line, it’s a much more public experience than with a book. You’re part of a community and reading in a public square when you go to your computer.

PG: Yes, you’re right. It’s something I wonder about with A Shimmer of Possibility. Am I diffusing that intimate experience by doing twelve books with Steidl? Or am I taking it to the maximum degree by separating each piece of work into its own volume, allowing each story to have that precious moment of intimacy with you? So much art relies on the confidence transaction. I know this is different, doing ten or twelve books. I know it seems crazy, but I’m asking you to trust me and enjoy this quiet journey. Just slow down and look at this ordinary moment of life. See how beautiful it is, see how life flows around us, how everything shimmers with possibility.

www.paulgrahamarchive.com

BOOKS: Paul Graham

* Paul Graham (2009)
* A Shimmer of Possibility (2009)
* American Night (2003)
* End of an Age (1999)
* Empty Heaven: Photographs from Japan 1989-1995 (1995)
* A1: The Great North Road (1983)

Around the WEB: Paul Graham

* Paul Graham Archive
* Wikipedia: Paul Graham
* MOMA: Shimmer of Possibility
* Steidl: Paul Graham
* PS1: American Night
* NY Times: A Shimmer of Possibility
* Artnet: Paul Graham

ASX CHANNEL: Paul Graham