Photographer. A leader in the development of street photography, he remains known for candid, naturalistic pictures of people, but also possessed an unusual knack for portraying animals. Like Walker Evans and Robert Frank, whose work he admired, he merged documentary photography with a personal artistic sensibility. His odd angles of vision, dramatic juxtapositions, subjects in action, and multiple centers of interest produce tense images embodying anxieties and psychological ruptures of modern life. At the same time, a cooler, more neutral tone than Frank's suggests the work of social landscape photographers such as Lee Friedlander. Winogrand famously summarized his purpose in a wryly disingenuous remark: “I photograph to find out what something will look like photographed.” What his subjects “look like” is frequently remarkably complex, and his apparently straightforward content often carries a surrealistic or comic edge.
Born in New York, Winogrand studied painting for a year at City College of New York, following a two-year stint in the U.S. Army Air Force. In 1948 he enrolled at Columbia University, but left to attend Alexey Brodovitch's photojournalism classes at the New School for Social Research (now New School). After quickly finding success as a magazine photographer, in 1955 he set out across the country in search of a more personal form of expression. Eventually he financed his art with teaching rather than commercial work, as he continued to survey the nation's physical and psychological tenor in travels around the country. Winogrand moved from New York to Austin, Texas, in 1973, then settled in Los Angeles in 1978. He died in Tijuana, Mexico, while undergoing treatment for cancer. Among Winogrand's publications, two focus on relationships between people and animals: The Animals (1969), a charming survey of zoo life inside and outside the cages, and Stock Photographs: The Fort Worth Fat Stock Show and Rodeo (1980). Winogrand sought to show “the effect of media on events” in Public Relations (1977), a collection of pictures taken between 1969 and 1976. Surpassing this goal, in actuality he recorded the climate of moral and political extravagance that marked American society in the early 1970s.