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.