Life Lesson, Winogrand

My last workshop was during the summer of 2019. I always kept things loose and open. So I had no agenda to pass on or follow. I just answered questions to the best of my ability and also, answered questions that may not have been on the session we were in.

I never thought of myself as a teacher and I was told I was a mentor.  Titles always seem to push preconceptions in life and the photo.

Speaking of preconceptions and the picture…..I’ve made countless shots of this stairway to the underground. For me it’s the man made environment gobbling up it’s creator. We all find it so easy to be lost in the crowd, It’s not just about photography but more about life, kinda like street shooting and it’s relationship with breathing. it becomes so natural to find our subject matter amongst the ruins of time and seeing the decay of the human condition. Hark! Be aware, maybe the world is all beautiful and everything like a dream but there is still the element of you in that dream.

I remember a lifetime ago being on a walk with Garry Winogrand. I asked him what drawed him to subject matter. I suppose I was looking for the magic key to his triggers. He said, you will never make photos of anything but yourself.  It’s all a portrait of you.

Then he asked me about Vietnam again and was like a reporter trying to find what clicks in me. I was open with him and we talked about heavy stuff. We hit 34th street and I said i need to get back to Philly. He looked at me and said, Don, I hope you find peace in your life, and always have your camera ready. Those words were the nicest words anyone ever said to me. I was moved. We went out own ways and I turned once and saw Garry and he waved to me. That was the last time i ever heard from or saw Garry. To this day, to every vet I ever met, I always say… I hope you find peace in your life.

There are many lessons in ones life. We get to remember some and maybe, just maybe we can apply a life lesson into our photography.   Some tell me that experience is equal to a lesson. I certainly disagree. We have experiences and not necessarily learn from them. A life lesson last with us as long as we stay true to ourselves.

Garry was right, it’s all a portrait of ourselves.

I hope you all find peace in your lives.

21 thoughts on “Life Lesson, Winogrand”

  1. I see that Garry died in 1984 at the age of 56. Too young. Thanks for sharing your walk with him. I think experiences are equal to lessons. But is up to us to learn from them. As Garry said … may all of us shooters find peace and always have our cameras at the ready. Every time we are out on the street there are lessons to be learned … if we are open to it. Take care out there Don.

    1. Dave, nice interpretation and i appreciate it. I suppose it’s like, have an open mind and heart but not everyone does. For the life of me, I never understand why.

      So, what’s the name of the 113?

  2. “You will never make photos of anything but yourself. It’s all a portrait of you.”
    He may not have been the only one making this comment, but it sure is more powerful coming from Winogrand, who spent his life obsessively making photos of other.
    It’s only recently that I have come to realize how true this is, but one you “see” it you can’t “unsee” it, your relationship to your own images changes forever.
    Why is that, though, is the interesting question.
    My tentative answer is that every photo we take is the result of a choice (of subject, of moment, of what goes in and what stays out of the frame), and a deliberate confession of what we feel moved by at any point in time.
    A photo lays out, bare for all to see, our heart and mind.
    We think we’re showing our “readers” an image of something, but we’re actually showing them a tangible sign of our own feelings, thoughts, interests, life…

  3. Beautiful memories of Garry. I met him once when I was a student and working in Camera Barn on 32nd Street. Camera Barn always had great deals on close out items. I always worked behind the counter in the darkroom department. I took this job, and one as a taxi driver, to help me with my shyness. Early one Saturday morning I heard someone yell, “Hey Garry!”. I looked up and there was Garry Winogrand. A bit heavy. Wearing that iconic chrome M4 around his neck. He ended up buying a couple hundred dollars worth of outdated RC paper for making contact sheets. So there he was, standing right in front of me while I packed up his paper, and I couldn’t think of a thing to say. I felt any word from my mouth at that moment would seem superfluous.

    His words are truth. Everything is a portrait of yourself.

    1. Keith, nice you have one on one experiences with Garry. I used to meet him in front of Camera Barn because he felt Olden’s was not reliable. Anyway, I would go the the store and look for deals and have to wait for a sales personn. One time Garry and I went in together. he wanted 28mm and if I remember correctly, an older version cause he liked the way it transmitted light. So we walked the walked and made photos. A few weeks later I went to Camera Barn and when I walked in, a salesman came and asked me what I needed and he was all over me. I didn’t realize then that Garry set the tone for me. Well, I owed it to Garry to let them treat me special and I did….hahaha

          1. They had two stores near Penn Station. One on 32nd between 6th and 7th Avenues. This was the main store. It’s now a Starbucks. The other was on Broadway between 32nd and 33rd Streets. That one is a Duane Reade.

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