The Street Philosophy of Garry Winogrand is Geoff Dyer‘s new-ish homage to John Sarkowski, whose Atget and Looking at Photographs form the jumping off point for Dyer’s exploration of the Winogrand archive. As a Winogrand monograph, it might fall a bit short, though it does include 18 previously unpublished color(!) photographs and a contact sheet from Winogrand’s time at the Ivar. But as a lesson in looking at photographs—and at least 7 of Errol Morris’ 10 tweets about photography—it’s an insightful, hilarious, thought provoking book, filled with some great—and some not-so-great—photographs.
Many reviewers have written much more eloquently about this book than I can, so I’ll refer you to them:
- Blake Andrews at B
- Sean O’Hagan at the Guardian
- Jennifer Szalai at the New York Times
- Geoff Nicholson in the LA Review of Books
- Richard B. Woodward in the New York Review of Books
I don’t have much more to add. Dyer’s writing is at least as interesting to me as Winogrand’s photography. In looking at the photographs, I often wonder about the horizon lines, the parallax. I don’t know why I care so much about that in the photographs of a widely acknowledged master of the medium. It’s probably because I obsess so much over it in my own work. But looking at some of the photographs in The Street Philosophy of Garry Winogrand, I start to feel a little bit disoriented, like Casa Magnetica that long-gone attraction at Six Flags. I never felt any such thing with Dyer’s writing, which is easily approachable and never takes itself too seriously, though I did sometimes find myself reading the essays without paying any mind at all to the photographs. This is a shame, since the photographs are large and beautifully reproduced.
If you want a good Winogrand monograph, look elsewhere, maybe pick up the New Documents catalog. This isn’t really a Winogrand book. But if you want some great writing on photography, by a non-photographer, and if you’ve already read Dyer’s The Ongoing Moment, The Street Philosophy of Garry Winogrand is well worth the cover price, though I certainly hope they put out a somewhat smaller, soft cover version, because my only real complaint about this book is that it’s more coffee table than easy chair.
Overall, I rate Geoff Dyer’s The Street Philosophy of Garry Winogrand a very soid 4.5 stars.
The University of Texas Press did a great job with this book, and you can pick up a copy direct from them or at the retailer of your choice. Again, if you want a Winogrand monograph, look elsewhere, but for a great book of photography writing, that happens to revolve around 100 photographs from Winogrand’s archive, then run, don’t walk, and pick up a copy.