Street photography Garry Winogrand: analysis
This picture was taken in 1969 by the legendary Garry Winogrand in Los Angeles. I love this scene, it is more complex than it seems, it has a lot of themes, stories, messages and possible interpretations. So I’ve decide to talk about this picture in an article blog giving my personal idea and reading key. Let’s start with general considerations about composition and elements in game. It’s a photo made up of contrasts between lights/shadows and different social conditions. Personally, as first impact, I’m attracted by the wonderful light in the centre of the scene. My eyes are obviously captured by contrast and bright areas, this is a physiological thing. So I start to look at the centre of the frame where three young and beautiful girls (maybe friends) are walking together. Considering light and shadows I think we are in late afternoon, too many people to say that this is early morning.
Then I discover other elements and details hidden by shadows: a man slumped in a wheelchair while on the opposite side of the sidewalk a kid is looking at him. In the foreground I see a star, now location is clear: we are in Hollywood Walk of Fame. Analyzing more in detail this frame I can say that the light is actually the storyteller of this scene. The sun lights from behind three girls (beauty, youth, fashion, health), shop windows (money, consumerism, commerce) and the star in the foreground (fame, success). Out of the scene hidden by shadows there is a man on a wheelchair (poverty, melancholy, sick, disease, marginalization) and a kid that is looking at the poor man, he isn’t interested in nothing else (empathy?).
In his street photography Garry Winogrand often tilted his camera creating in this way many diagonals to give more dynamism and drama to the whole scene. That is the case of course.
You (observer) are hit by this light (success, beautiful, fame, fortune..); shadows create a sort of arrows pointing at you (observer) out of the frame. Are you tempted by these things? Or are you looking at the man in wheelchair like the kid on the right side (empathy)? As observer you have the choice!
But I want say something more about the poor man on the left side. I don’t notice him at first glance but in my opinion he is the main character of the scene (light it’s only a storyteller). We can’t see his face because he keeps head down assuming a suffering and prostrate pose. The curved shapes of his body and wheelchair contrast with the straight lines of the tree. The two elements are on the opposite sides of the same diagonal.
When I see the poor man in the wheelchair with these prostrate pose and curved shapes I think immediately to Edvard Munch‘s paintings. Death, anguish, disease, omen, sadness, desperation: that’s Munch in my mind. I see a great parallelism with the subject in Garry Winogrand’s street photo. Look these paintings, he often used curved lined, shadows (like omen) and this suffering poses.
That’s all folks
Stay well, have always light in your life
Read more articles about street photography here