Central Mass. Culture Vulture: Winogrand’s Women are Beautiful

Friday, November 01, 2013
Susan Wagner, GoLocalWorcester Contributor

(Woman in White Dress, Centennial Ball, Metropolitan Museum, New York), 1969
Central Mass. Culture Vulture is the portal for arts and cultural events in the region. The heart of Massachusetts provides a wide array of events in venues that range from refurbished architectural gems to full stadiums. Central Ma. Culture Vulture will shine a weekly spotlight highlighting one of the many diverse cultural opportunities.

Worcester Art Museum’s exhibition, Winogrand’s Women are Beautiful. August 9 - November 10, 2013

Time is running out to see the work of controversial photographer Garry Winogrand at Worcester Art Museum’s exhibition, Winogrand’s Women are Beautiful. Known for his portrayal of life in the United States in the mid-twentieth century, Winogrand is regarded as one of the most important photographers of his generation. He was also one of the most prolific, shooting over five million images in his career.

Hailed as the father of street photography, the critically accepted view of Winogrand has been that his “ambition was not to make good pictures, but through photography to know life.” While Winogrand shot much of his work in New York, he also roamed across America.

His 1975 book, Women are Beautiful, showcases his work of random female figures either on the street, at parties, or making their voices heard at political demonstrations. Winogrand’s photography documents the fashion and pop culture of the 60s and 70s and the strong, confident, and rebellious women of those decades.

However, Winogrand has also been criticized for exploiting the anonymous subjects that were captured through his lens. The photos in Women are Beautiful are often composed to emphasize feminine assets. Friend and fellow photographer Joel Meyerowitz said of Winogrand, "[his] pictures are both a slam and an embrace. He's a contradiction, and so the pictures are contradictions."

Featuring sixty-eight photographs from Women are Beautiful, this exhibition attempts to negotiate these contradictions to provoke a new and insightful engagement with Winogrand and his conception of "what women are." The striking exhibit, designed by Patrick Brown, captures attention with its red walls and gold frames and sets a new standard for an exhibition of 20th century black and white photography.

Winogrand’s Women are Beautiful is divided into five sections. “Women Are Objects” highlights the controversy around his work, while other viewpoints are included in “Women Are Joyful,” “Women are Fierce,” “Women are Reflective,” and “Women Are More.”

It is the hope of exhibition curator Nancy Burns that visitors walk out unsure of how they feel about the exhibit or of Winogrand’s work. “As curator,” she says, “I still retain ambivalence about this artist. His legions of fans are diehard in their support and his critics are equally resistant to acknowledge how innovative he was with his use of composition. He is technically so important to the field, but if it is at the expense of his subjects, it is worth noting.”


Susan Wagner is the president of Susan Wagner PR. In this challenging economy, she has begun a new division to offer affordable start-up packages to new and emerging small businesses and non-profit organizations that include professional writing services, websites, collateral, marketing, social media, grassroots outreach and PR campaigns.

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