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Katherine Shonfield

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The Uneasy Streets of Garry Winogrand (reviewed by Tom Emerson 'Surveying the City' AJ 22.6.00) is, as Emerson says, an obsessive recording of the life of the New York streets during the 1960s and 1970s: Winogrand left more than 40,000 rolls of undeveloped film on his death.

Some individuals may have been 'caught unawares', but the apparent innocence of photographing the crowd is deceptive.

What Winogrand photographs is the characteristic second of interaction we all know: the moment when someone you pass in the opposite direction catches your eye. The 'uneasiness' of the exhibition title comes from the realisation that none of his subjects ever do catch Winogrand's actual eye. To take the photographs, he approached in the opposite direction, and he held his camera up so it covered his face. So far from being caught unawares, one of the fascinations with the photographs in the Photographers' Gallery exhibition is that they are a document of how people, at different historic times, coped with the implied threat of having their picture 'taken'.

Two photographs, in particular, make a telling contrast.

Five men stand on the corner outside a corporate building.

Four stare with unconcealed hostility at the camera: one, arms akimbo, seems to be spoiling for a fight; another, with exaggerated calm and clenched jaw, waits for the nuisance to pass. They occupy the entire corner of a wide pavement at the point where it is most difficult to get past. In another image, a line of women standing waiting at night avoid the camera; those who catch its lens look resigned, uncomfortable, weary. It is a poignant and unavoidable record of difference at its most acute.

Winogrand reveals once again the extraordinary social complexity of that superficially most straightforward of spaces, the street. It should be studied.

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