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Women are Beautiful

06.06. - 03.08.2014

In its upcoming exhibition WestLicht Museum for Photography presents Women are Beautiful, both the most prominent and most debated series by famed Street Photographer Garry Winogrand (1928-1984). The 85 photographs from the 1960s and 1970s, which Winogrand compiled in a book by the same title published in 1975, form a thorough portrait of an era on the move. During the post-war years, there was a change in the attitude of women, based on an intense exercise of inner and outer freedom. Winogrand’s series is an unprecedented document of social change taking shape in public everyday life. Following the women through the streets of Manhattan and joining them at high society parties, Winogrand’s camera observes how they occupy public space with self-confident grace and how social transformation manifests in their body language and habitus. Although the series depicts women as principal agents of change, they however remain subjected to the male gaze of a brilliant image hunter.

Garry Winogrand is one of the most influential photographers of his generation. During the 1950s and early 1960s he developed an instinct-driven visual language, which abandoned conventional composition in favour of a more direct representation of life in photography. Winogrand, the so-called “prince of the streets”, came to be reckoned as the quintessential street photographer: his Leica always at hand, his incredible sensitivity for the moment combined with a certain ruthlessness towards his subjects. Arguably, no one before has managed to capture the vitality of New York City’s streets with the same immediacy. Frequent distortions, stark diagonals and the tilted perspective of his photographs represent the restlessness of urban life as well as Winogrand’s breathless working style.

Winogrand was an almost manic photographer; taking pictures was more of a lifestyle for him than a profession. A complementary display drawn from the WestLicht collection is dedicated to an equally obsessive picture hunter, Czech artist Miroslav Tichý (1926-2011). Sole subject of his photographic oeuvre, which he built up since the 1960s, are the women and girls of his hometown Kyjov. Tichý photographed them with self-constructed makeshift cameras on his daily rambles through town. With an almost conceptual rigour, Tichý set himself a goal of one hundred pictures per day. The imperfections of his home made lenses which frequently cover the women’s bodies with a veil-like haziness both reduce and enhance the voyeuristic appeal of the photographs at the same time. Thus the photographs oscillate between dreamlike epiphanies and surveillance shots. The artist Tichý himself has remained a similarly vague figure. With eccentric obstinacy he managed to withdraw himself from the lures of the socialist state as well as the art market throughout his life.

In the central display cases of the Camera Museum WestLicht presents a special exhibition on the subject of detective cameras, showcasing a selection of miniature and spy cameras. The introduction of photography in 1839 also launched an era during which various camera types were developed. Due to their different areas of use, user demands regarding manageability, transportability and inconspicuousness grew. The ambition to take photographs unnoticed was the focus of many cameras. The small, highly technological objects of utility are collectively known as detective cameras here. These cameras revolutionised photography: for the first time, they gave both amateur and professional photographers the chance to capture moving and stationary objects at any time. This camera type was popular until 1920 and inspired the American George Eastman to build the first Kodak box camera, a novelty which found an instant, massive following, paving the way for an innovative way of taking photographs. The snapshot was born.

Garry Winogrand. Women are Beautiful with the courtesy of Lola Garrido Collection


Talks & Events

Lecture by Prof. Dr. Jens Schröter > 22.07.2014, 7 pm (in German)
Exhibition tours > 28.06., 03.07., 17.07., 02.08.2014, 6 pm (in German, English language tours on request at vermittlung(at)
WestBar. Die Pop-Up Bar beim WestLicht > 05.06., 28.06., 03.07., 17.07., 02.08.2014, 16-22 h

All images: Garry Winogrand, from the portfolio WOMEN ARE BEAUTIFUL © Garry Winogrand / with the courtesy of Lola Garrido Collection