Life in Colour

Life in Colour

The 20th century photographer Garry Winogrand (1928-1984) was renowned for spontaneous black-and-white depictions of life in the US. The works pioneered a defining ”snapshot aesthetic”, changing the trajectory of contemporary art and opening up new possibilities for the medium. Winogrand also produced over 45,000 colour slides between the early 1950s and late 1960s, now on view for the first time at The Brooklyn Museum.

The collection comprises over 450 images, starting with the artist’s earliest experiments with colour at Coney Island in the 1950s. Shown across seventeen expansive projections, the exhibition expands to focus on dynamic pictures of New York City: street scenes, portraits and still lifes surround the viewer. Candid moments of time on the road are rendered in striking hues, set against the backdrops of highways, suburbs, airports, fairgrounds and national parks.

A dedication to capturing the moment pervades the presentation, which moves quickly between disparate vignettes of daily experiences. This is a concept reflected in contemporary digital culture – where images are continually uploaded, shared and viewed on social media. “Predicting photographic practices of today, he photographed nearly everything, often leaving the editing of his pictures to others,” Curator Drew Sawyer notes.

Coming from a working-class background in the Bronx, and active at a time when images had little market value, Winogrand did not have the resources to produce costly and time-consuming colour prints. Despite this, he would often carry two cameras at once: one black-and-white and one with Kodachrome film. For this reason, most of the most well-known works have colour counterparts, shot just moments apart from each other. Brooklyn Museum offers a unique insight into this creative process, offering a selection of recognisable pieces such as World’s Fair, New York City (1964) and Central Park Zoo, New York City (1967). As Sawyer explains: “This is an exciting opportunity to rethink not only the work of an influential artist but also the history of colour photography and its modes of presentation before 1970.”

The exhibition runs until 8 December. Find out more here.  

Lead image: Garry Winogrand (American, 1928–1984). Untitled (New York), 1960. 35mm color slide. Collection of the Center for Creative Photography, The University of Arizona. © The Estate of Garry Winogrand, courtesy Fraenkel Gallery, San Francisco