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Current time:0:00Total duration:3:20

Video transcript

People are so accustomed to making a direct parallel between a photograph's subject and its meaning. The thing that it depicts is rarely the same scale, the same dimensionality, the same color as the photograph itself, and it's in those differences that a real tension and interest lies. Since photography was invented, one of the functions that it's served in the world is to record things that would have previously been recorded through drawing, or etching, or sketching. That notion of a photograph's documentary function has been a part of it since the beginning. When John Szarkowski organized New Documents in 1967, what he was doing was drawing together three of the best and most promising suggestions in contemporary photography. They weren't trying to change the world. They weren't trying to work for a client. They weren't trying to make a picture that served any other purpose than making that picture. For a photograph to function as a document in the traditional sense of the word, it had to be clear, it had to be sharp, in focus. But what is interesting about Arbus and Winogrand and Friedlander is that they would adopt that language of handheld, black-and-white photography, but what they were applying it to was a totally personal end. This picture by Garry Winogrand came into the collection in 1973. It's a classic mid-to-late 20th century print. It's made from a 35 millimeter negative that he's enlarged to this scale, printed on gelatin silver paper, and then trimmed and mounted it. When you think of Gary Winogrand's photograph of the blonde woman and the African-American man carrying two monkeys, of course, that is a photograph of a couple and their two very well-dressed monkeys walking through Central Park. But when you realize what Winogrand has done, and his recognition of how that picture can function both as a metaphor and as a subject, the choices that he's made in terms of how close he stands to that subject or how far away, how the very nature of walking around the streets with a 35-millimeter camera opens the possibility of encountering something like that on the street, and just capturing it as it's passing you by. All photographers make choices, whether it's how you frame something on Instagram, what kind of camera you use, what kind of prints you make, how you share that picture. All of those choices make every photograph different from what it's a photograph of, and help you tease apart the difference and the space between something in front of the camera and the ultimate production of the artist.