Deep in Picture Post research, uncovering rolls of Winogrand negatives, dormant for years
Within a collection containing in excess of 80 million images, one often comes across images — and occasionally whole features — in our extensive files that have lain dormant and undiscovered for many years. Just the other day, that happened to me.
Whilst carrying out some background research on the legendary Picture Post magazine, I started to compile a list of photographers who had contributed material during the magazine’s 19-year existence.
Over and above the staff photographers and regular freelancers (which include Bill Brandt amongst others), the percentage of photographers who shot a single story is surprisingly high – 50 percent, in fact. And within this “one hit wonder” club are a number of notable names.
Some of these features were known to me – such as those by Werner Bischof, John Deakin, Emile Savitry and Umbo – who all went onto fame, if not always fortune, in their subsequent careers. However, amongst the likes of Marc Riboud, George Rodgers, Roger Woods and Zoltan Glass, who also contributed photo essays, one other name stood out – Garry Winogrand, which even in my 28 years at the archive was a surprise to me.
I was very doubtful we’d have the actual original negatives – even though the story was published, and assuming this would be a typical freelance feature where the negatives would have been retained by the photographer.
Amazingly, I discovered otherwise. We did indeed have the original 35mm negatives – seven rolls in fact – which had never been contacted, let alone published. And one of the key aspects of the find was that the marked up version of the original magazine clearly stated the story was deemed Picture Post copyright, meaning Winogrand was commissioned by Picture Post to shoot the feature.
Just three of Winogrand’s shots were used in the published feature which appeared in the 14th November 1953 edition, a story about the future of commercial television, titled “Walden in TV Wonderland.” Given the date of the story was a full two years before Winogrand achieved his big breakthrough with two of his images exhibited as part of the ground breaking “Family of Man” exhibition at the Museum of Modern Art, it is interesting to view his formative work – which is as far as one can get from his street photography of the 1960s, ’70s and ’80s, the photographs which ultimately made his name.
Director of Photographer at MoMA, John Szarkowski would describe Winogrand as the “central photographer of his generation,” and by the time he was afforded a Guggenheim Fellowship in 1964, his future legacy was assured.
Dying prematurely, at the relatively early age of 56 in 1984, Winogrand’s work is highly collectable and much sought after, so the fact that seven rolls of negatives has lain undisturbed for nearly 60 years is somewhat remarkable.
Given that this October we’ll be celebrating the 75th anniversary of the launch of Picture Post, it seems fitting that this photo essay has surfaced – there is certainly much gold in them thar Picture Post hills! Now if only we can find the original prints that were published in the feature itself … that would certainly be the icing on the cake.
Editor’s note: Matt Butson is Getty Images Vice President, Hulton Archive. He and his team have published a collection of insightful articles regarding Picture Post and the personalities which made it famous, leading up to it’s 75th anniversary later this year.