Spotted in a Garry Winogrand Photograph

Currently on view in our level seven photography gallery is a show dedicated to the American photographer Garry Winogrand. In the late 1960s and early 1970s Winogrand explored the creative possibilities of photographing on the streets or in crowds. When he sensed the composition of a picture falling into place, Winogrand would quickly raise his camera to his eye and take candid photos of anonymous people (or so he thought, but more on that in a bit).

Often he focused on women—in parks, getting into cars, at parties, exiting stores—creating photographs that highlighted the changing role of women and, at times, the uncertainty of their new place. The selection of 50 photographs from the museum’s permanent collection in Garry Winogrand: Women are Beautiful are culled from the hundreds that Garry Winogrand took of women on the street, a selection of which were published in the 1975 book Women are Beautiful.

Winogrand didn’t exactly ask permission to photograph his subjects. He didn’t have them sign a photography release or get their twitter handle so he could connect with them later. He thought of his subjects as anonymous and, for the most part, they really are. We don’t know names or professions; we don’t know exactly what they were doing, who they were dating, or where they were headed. We only know about this one moment of their life, captured for eternity on film.

I have to say for the most part because three of the women featured in Winogrand’s 1975 photo Histrionics on Bench (pictured above) recognized themselves in 2002. Barbara Bye Murdock, Karen Johnson Celi, and Mary Crane Fahey, all from towns in Massachusetts, didn’t know about the famous photo until Fahey saw the photograph in a magazine at the doctor’s office in 2002. In June of 2011, Fahey read in a Boston Globe review that the photo was on display at the Boston Museum of Fine Arts as part of an the exhibition Conversations: Photography From the Bank of America Collection. The MFA told the Boston Globe that the women contacted the museum so they could see it for themselves and have kept in touch over the years. A local blogger stumbled upon the interview between the women and the Boston Globe and took this photo.

Look closely next time you’re in the photography gallery—you might recognize someone in the photos!

Image credit: Garry Winogrand, Histrionics on Bench, 1975. Gelatin silver print. Denver Art Museum: Gift of Mr. William Berley, 1978.266.7. © The Estate of Garry Winogrand; courtesy Fraenkel Gallery, San Francisco.