Drifting and striding, in Hollywood and elsewhere, with Geoff Nicholson - author of The Lost Art of Walking, and Walking in Ruins withcholson, author of Toff Nidrifting and stomping withcholson, author of The Lost Art of Walking, considers the narrower and wider shores of obsessive pedestrianism.
Showing posts with label Garry Winogrand. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Garry Winogrand. Show all posts

Sunday, May 26, 2013


And speaking of Garry Winogrand, as I often do (that's him above),there’s currently a huge exhibition of his work at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art.  Winogrand hated the term “street photographer” but most people would think that’s precisely what he was.  The thing about street photographers is that they walk the streets themselves and take lots of pictures of other people who are also walking.  I find this enormously appealing.

Winogrand was a New Yorker, through and through, who grew up in the Bronx, and I think it’s fair to say that the majority of his best pictures were taken in New York, but he worked plenty of other places too.  There was a great early series that became a book, The Great American Rodeo.  He even took some pictures in England. 

Towards the end of his life he moved to Los Angeles and took a lot of pictures there too.  By then however he wasn’t doing much walking.  He got people to drive him around and he took pictures out the windows.  The received wisdom is that this isn’t the very best way to take photographs, certainly not “street photographs,” and that it indicated a great falling off in the quality of his work.  This is an occasion when The recievde wisdom appears to be true.

However,  I just found the wonderful picture above by Ted Pushinsky showing Winogrand on Hollywood Boulevard, at the corner of Whitley Avenue.  Winogrand was, however briefly, a genuine Hollywood Walker. He does look a little overdressed, but then so do the other people in the picture.

Sunday, May 19, 2013


 I’ve been doing some walking in Manhattan.  I didn’t go there specifically to do any walking but, as I’ve said many times before, New York is a place where people end up doing a lot of walking, whether they intend to or not.  And I think there’s something suitably Zen about this, that some of the best walks happen when you don’t intend to do a “walk.”

It was when I lived in New York that I first started carrying a camera with me full time, sometimes walking the streets pretending to be Garry Winogrand, or someone.  Of course, New York explodes with quirky, unexpected, eye-catching details, and characters. Even so I was slightly surprised to find this sign on a street in Hell’s Kitchen, on a day in mid-May when the temperature was pushing 80 degrees F.

It reminded me of my favourite bit of New York street art, this wonderful faux Ed Ruscha piece - not quite a mural, since it's not painted directly on the wall  - at the Gaseteria at the corner of Houston and Lafayette. 

Obviously it didn’t always have a pile of snow in front of it, but having taken the picture, that’s the way I always remember it. There’s still a gas station on the site, but it’s no longer the Gaseteria, just a BP station, thriving as far as I could tell, with many yellow cabs using it, and the faux Ruscha has gone - perhaps even to a loving home.  This is not surprising and it would have been absurd to "preserve" it in perpetuity, but still, I sort of miss it.

My wife and I were walking down Fifth Avenue and we were discussing the women and high heels in New York.   She said that she wasn’t seeing any New York women in high heels.  This surprised me.  When I lived there my impression was that the streets were full of them, and then as if to prove my point, up ahead I saw a very well-dressed woman wearing extremely high heels, a woman, it must be said, who looked amazingly short, which was perhaps why she needed the heels.

And then, a split second later, I realized this was a “famous person” – Nina Garcia – one of the judges of Project Runway (yes, yes, my wife sometimes makes me watch it) and also Creative Director of Marie Claire Magazine, whatever that might involve. Nina was struggling to find the right shiny black SUV that was there to take her wherever she was going next.  There were quite a few of them parked in the vicinity, and the streets and traffic of New York were unrelenting.  The first shiny black SUV she went to wouldn’t let her in.  She did some yelling, both at the driver and into her cell phone.  I reached for my camera. 

I got a shot, though alas I couldn't get the shoes.  I felt like Garry Winogrand, or maybe Ron Galella.

Tuesday, January 8, 2013


If I look up from my desk and peer across the room, my eyes inevitably fall on a poster of one of my favourite images by one of my favourite photographers.  It’s Garry Winogrand’s image of two women at LAX airport walking toward what’s known as the Theme Building.  It looks like this:

In fact Winogrand took a great many of my favourite photographs.  He was, you’d say, a street photographer (one of those terms that seems to mean less and less the more you say it), and in the course of his work he did a lot of walking and photographed a lot of other walkers.  He’s usually associated with New York, but he took a lot of pictures in LA too.

He even took some in London.  The received wisdom is that his London photographs weren’t as good as his American ones, that his great skill was seeing a familiar environment with fresh eyes: when confronted by an unfamiliar environment this freshness disappeared and he was reduced to taking pictures of guardsmen or men in bowler hats.  Still, I’m very taken by the odd familiarity and strangeness of this one, titled Woman Entering a Cab, London:

 Winogrand did like shooting women in the street, so to speak, which in these days of the demonized male gaze seems a dodgy activity at best, but hell he had nothing on Miroslav Tichý.  I love Geoff Dyer’s description of Tichý’s working method,  “he spent his time perving around Kyjov, photographing women.” Well yes indeed.  I suppose Winogrand’s method was less pervy because it was less sneaky, though I know there are those who’d find this an overfine distinction.

Street photography has been much on my mind lately, having been hunkered down with Reuel Golden’s London: Portrait of a City, a grand photobook, showing London, its people and inevitably its walkers, from Oswald Mosley to the Kray Twins.  Full disclosure: I am mentioned approvingly therein. One picture that particularly stays with me, is the one below by Cecil Beaton, not really pervy I suppose, since it’s obviously a set up with a model, and because the photographer’s perviness was directed elsewhere.

I like taking pictures, I do it all the time, and I’m a good enough photographer to know I’m not a very good photographer. But once in a while I take a photograph that makes me happy.  Here is the best walking I've taken in a very long time, but Garry Winogrand,  I know it ain’t.