Winogrand-Figments from the Real World

I was reading "Winogrand-Figments from the Real World" by John Szarkowski, when I came across this one particular sentence that stopped me in my tracks.

"Winogrand was uninterested in making pictures that he knew would succeed..."

I rubbed my eyes, and re-read it to make sure I saw it correctly. Yes, yes, it really does say, "uninterested". I bookmarked the page and closed it. I needed to think about this idea, and really digest it.

It got me thinking back to photographer Jim Brandenburg's documentary "Chased by the Light", in which he allowed himself to only take ONE photo per day for ninety days. In the film, he talks about how one day he was confronted with a choice. He found a Raven's feather on a rock after a rainfall. It wasn't a particularly grand feather, but he felt a special connection to it. Yet, behind him was a can't miss postcard opportunity with a beautiful expansive rainbow and a lake. To stay true to his project, he could only shoot one. Rather than taking the picture of the rainbow, one that he knew would succeed, he shot the less dramatic, but more introspective feather with raindrops on it.

I know Robert Frost's poems have been heavily quoted, yet I can't help but to see a clear connection between what Winogrand and Brandenburg felt, and Frost's poem, "The Road Not Taken".


Two roads diverged in a yellow wood
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth

Then took the other as just as fair
And having perhaps the better claim
Because it was grassy and wanted wear
Though as for that, the passing there
Had worn them really about the same

And both that morning equally lay
In leaves no step had trodden black
Oh, I kept the first for another day!
Yet, knowing how way leads onto way
I doubted if I should ever come back

I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence
Two roads diverged in a wood
And I took the one less traveled by
And that has made all the difference

Robert Frost



As photographers, I believe there comes a point when we need to ask ourselves which path we will take. What is it that we want to say with our images? Will we choose to do things differently than everybody else, or be restricted by conformity