In the natural spotlight
Garry Winogrand was born in New York City, where he created most of his photography work. Winogrand photographed the disharmony and contrasts that exist in a changing society on the streets and other places of interest.
He contributed considerably to the so-called street photography; being one of the most prominent figures in 20th-century photography.
In context, during the ’60s in the United States the movement of “love and peace” was happening where people protested peacefully against armed movements, such as the Vietnam War. There was also the fight for civil rights for African-Americans, whose leading figures were Dr. Martin Luther King Jr and Malcolm X.
In this era of struggles against the authorities and established paradigms, the sexual revolution was added at the end of the decade; firstly with the approval of the contraceptive pill in the USA, then by the disinhibitions in clothing, particularly in the case of women, among other things
Winogrand’s eye, as well as other street photographers, had the ability to find in the moments of everyday life around him, that scene that could represent reality discovered by him in a meaningful way.
“Photography is not about the thing photographed,” Gerry once said. “It’s about how that thing looks photographed.” So, we could say that the combination of the exact moment as the main factor, coupled with the composition (the order of the elements in the photo) as the second characteristic, can cause the viewer to be more eager about discovering the image.
In Hollywood and Vine, Los Angeles there are three objects of interest: the man in a wheelchair, the 3 women, and the child who is turned over on the bench. These elements can be translated into vertices of a triangle; a triangle opposed to the one reflected on the ground by light. However, the element that stands out is the group of women. The sunlight hits them right in the back so this backlight emphasizes them more as the main visual point of the composition, in addition to their central location within the photograph.
We can assume from their clothing that they are from this generation of rupture and a socioeconomic upper class. They are looking down at the man who could be homeless. The women’s looks are of discomfort and sadness anticipating the situation of having to pass by his side, probably due to the shame of not knowing how to act in such situations.
The drooping face of the man in a wheelchair suggests tiredness and sadness, in addition to the fact that his gaze towards the ground can show a feeling of inferiority.
On the other hand, the boy with glasses, who could represent California’s middle class, has a more curious and empathetic look towards the crouched man. Both the boy and the man are in the shadows while the women are in the “natural spotlight”.
One could speak of this literal as well as a metaphorical illumination since this contrast also reflects that it’s the people with great purchasing power who normally stand out; while the lower and marginalized social classes are invisible to many and cannot stand out due to these same conditions.