For many years, an aura has surrounded the Garry Winogrand archive. The photographer, who died in 1984 at age fifty-six, left behind more than
six thousand rolls of unedited film and numerous photographs that had been marked on his proof sheets but never printed. Over the past three years, photographer Leo Rubinfien has been working for the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art and the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C., as guest curator of the first Winogrand retrospective since the mid-1980s, re-editing these materials—in collaboration with curator Erin O’Toole (SFMOMA) and Sarah Greenough (NGA)—and supervising the printing of many never-before-seen images, some of which appear in the accompanying pages. The exhibition Garry Winogrand—accompanied by a major publication—began in March last year at SFMOMA, subsequently traveled to the NGA, and recently opened at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York (it will later travel to the Jeu De Paume, Paris, and the Fundación MAPFRE, Madrid). Here, photographer Philip-Lorca diCorcia (known as PL) speaks with Rubinfien about the complexities of Winogrand’s work, which has often been mischaracterized as “street photography,” the legacy of curator John Szarkowski, and the new meanings we may discover today by revisiting this influential photographer.
— The Editors
Philip-Lorca diCorcia: As someone who went to Yale in the late 1970s and had Tod Papageorge as a professor, I resisted Garry Winogrand. By ’78, he was a cult; there was an orthodoxy around him at that time.
Leo Rubinfien: There was certainly a circle of people associated with Winogrand—mainly photographers, but not exclusively. They had intense convictions about the value of his work—and other people’s work, too—and also about how photography should be thought about and discussed, but to say that a cult formed around him seems harsh to me. These were thoughtful, intelligent people, and each one had reasons for being present. Did an orthodoxy develop? Maybe so, but slowly. The photographers connected with Winogrand in the 1960s were drawn at least partly by the sense that there was more freedom in his approach to photography than they could find anywhere else. Later, they had to defend themselves and if there was some dogmatizing, that was only human.