As a follow-up to Sightseeing with Garry Winogrand, we uncovered an image of a late Winogrand contact sheet of Los Angeles photos (see below) on a 2007 blog post by a blogger named “J.T.”, who offers his own take on Winogrand’s late work. J.T. begins by ruminating on “Figments of the Real World, Winogrand’s massive, out of print 1988 MOMA monograph,” from which he quotes several passages, interspersed with his own commentary. The first thing he mentions from the catalog are more exact numbers for Winogrand’s unseen output near the end of his life: “At the time of his death, it was discovered that Winogrand had been sitting on 2,500 rolls of exposed, but undeveloped film, and an additional 6,500 rolls of developed, but unproofed, film. That’s 9,000 rolls of film that he shot but never bothered to look at.”
The thing we found most interesting, however, is that J.T. came to a similar conclusion as us, that Winogrand, in the end, had become more of a conceptual artist than the “street photographer” he had been and is known for: “Could it be possible that, through these tectonic shifts in methodology, Winogrand was undergoing an honest-to-god sea change in his approach to his medium (a change that privileged the act, not the results?) Is it an accident that the late contact sheets bear more than a passing resemblance to the medium-subverting projects of John Baldessari and Ed Ruscha? Was Garry Winogrand becoming–in his own stubborn, round-about, contrarian way–a conceptual artist?”
A change that privileged the act, not the results. Whether Winogrand “lost his mind” or “evolved his thinking” is a moot point. We have to take what he left the world and make of it what we will. And if most of the images are more interesting as part of a conceptual idea than as individual images, then so be it, because the idea is really interesting, a gift to the future from a dying artist who remains a force to be reckoned with.