Heiferman on Winogrand and Editing

I think probably there has been more nonsense written about Garry Winogrand than most well-known photographers, but the Lens blog Garry Winogrand – Nonstop and Unedited by Martin Heiferman posted last week is worth reading.

Editing is a problem we all have, and increasingly so in the digital age as Heiferman notes, although there are some ways in which digital makes editing easier. Certainly there is no longer the peering  though a magnifier we had to spend so long doing – either at negatives or contact sheets, though the 4x Ohnar loupe still at my right elbow. It still costs almost the same as I paid for mine many years ago – around £70, and if you work with 35mm film you should have one. Or you can pay several hundred for one that is about as good!

Although many (including myself) have commented on Winogrand’s gargantuan appetite for film, looking at it now it perhaps doesn’t seem so excessive. Looking behind me at the file upon file of my own negatives I didn’t quite equal his volume, but was beginning to get there – and when I look back on much of the work I am usually surprised to see how little I took – and the opportunities I missed. I haven’t checked the maths, but one of the comments equates his output to a couple of 36x cassettes a day – and I think surely it must have been more. And having spent over 10 years working with digital, I have a suspicion I may now have overtaken the master in sheer quantity! The last time I checked the number of images on My London Diary it was over 60,000, and typically I post less than 1 in 10 of the pictures I take there – that’s ‘3 per film’ in old money. Although I definitely take more pictures on digital than I ever did on film (probably around 4 times as many on a typical day) I think digital has enabled me to work more carefully rather than as usually suggested encouraging sloppy image-making.

Looking back at my old work on film – something I’ve only done systematically for my work up to 1985 at the moment is interesting, and I find that much of the work that interests me most now is the more straightforward images – some of which might be dismissed as ‘record’ images (and are by at least one of my photographer friends.)  But then I think one of my great photographic heroes – Walker Evans – was very much a maker of ‘record’ images.

Incidentally one of the comments includes a link that didn’t work for me (but was fairly easy to find here) in which Norman Bringsjord shares his memories of workshops with both Winogrand and Diane Arbus.

The Lens post also has a good selection of 20 images by Winogrand that I think includes some of his best images. Winogrand hasn’t I think always been well-served by leaving the editing to others, but at least here they have made a decent stab at it. I’m still trying to find the time and energy to lift, let alone read, the vast book on him that accompanies the SFMoMA show, which closes June 2.

2 Responses to “Heiferman on Winogrand and Editing”

  1. Verichrome says:

    You’ve at least actually looked at your photos. As the NYTimes reported, “during the last six years of his life, spent mainly in Los Angeles, Winogrand made more than a third of a million black-and-white exposures and, inexplicably, did not stop to see what he had done,” which included 2,400 rolls of exposed but still undeveloped film.

  2. Last year I finally sent off around 30 rolls of colour neg that I’d taken around 2005 for processing. Still have a few around, along with 30 b/w taken around the same time. I processed a whole batch, perhaps around 50 a couple of years ago, and keep meaning to do the rest when I have some spare time.

    My problem isn’t on Winogrand’s epic scale, but it still exists. I’ve also got hundreds of sheets of film negatives that I’ve never got around to contact printing or scanning, and I’ve never really looked carefully at them.

    I’ve never felt his failure to look at the work was inexplicable. He just got caught up in the hunt.

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