Garry Winogrand - Jeu de Paume

This isn’t a review but more of a scribble to share an experience I had earlier this year…

I have a relatively unusual job where I am sent to many different places, mainly in the UK & Europe (but sometimes further afield) in order to wow companies into buying software. Most of the time I am in fairly nondescript places, but occasionally I get to go somewhere nice. And so I found myself in Paris, way back on the 6th of January. Flight times meant I got an extra day to wander around, so I thought I would take some pictures and see some culture. Luck would have it that the Gary Winogrand retrospective was going to coincide with my visit (result). I was pretty excited. Gary Winogrand does not need an introduction from the likes of me, but safe to say he was one of the ‘masters’ I latched onto pretty quickly when educating myself in photography. To see his work printed and on the wall was something I was looking forward to. I love his no-nonsense, New Yorker approach to photography. 

“I photograph to find out what something will look like photographed.”

However, this trip to Paris was not like other times I have been. On my second day there, Saïd and Chérif Kouachi decided to walk into the offices of Charlie Hebdo and murder 11 employees. As you can imagine the whole city took on a strange mood. For the next two days there seemed to be a never ending convoy of unmarked police cars; sirens blazing, windows down with 4 or 5 black-clad, balaclava wearing swat team officers sneering out. They were attempting to hunt down the brothers and then deal with Amedy Coulibaly who decided to go on the rampage also. A deeply unpleasant and upsetting few days for the City of Light. 

So it was on a rain soaked day, in amongst the chaos that I went to the Jeu de Paume, plastered in Je Suis Charlie posters, to see the exhibition. Not to belittle the horrible events that were going on, but what an experience, what a way to distract my attention. Living in Northern Ireland I don’t have a huge amount of access (without considerable effort) to photographic exhibitions on this scale. I had seen Robert Frank’s ‘The Americans’ contact sheets at the Tate and some of Soth’s portraits at the National Portrait Gallery in London, but this was a different kettle of fish. There were well over a hundred prints, showing his New York work through to when he travelled west in the later part of his career. Seeing a retrospective like this from such a photographer was profound. His ability to find beauty and interest in the most mundane moments on the street is breathtaking. Seeing the deep, textured, beautifully-crafted Silver Gelatin prints up close was incredible. Like Winogrand said, if a moment appears more dramatic in a picture than it did in reality, then it is a good picture; the exhibition contained many dramatic pictures. 

“There is a transformation, you see, when you just put four edges around it. That changes it. A new world is created.”

I have no idea where the exhibition will end up, but if you get the chance to go then do. If you don’t, then I highly recommend the accompanying book:

With that I went back into the rain, kept my head down and snapped a few frames to pass the time before my flight home. This Paris trip was a strange experience and awful to feel the city gripped by fear. I hope the next trip back isn’t as eventful. 

Some snapshots taken in Paris.

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