The market has always been a source of photographic inspiration to me. Life swirls around me as I poke my camera into produce, flowers and food stands. Every so often an ordinary moment of human behavior and interaction stands out as something significant. Why does ordinary life seem so extraordinary in the two-dimensional world of still photography? I suppose this is the great mystery of photography and why it compels so many of us to look at our world through the lens.
The more significant the moment, the more ephemeral it seems to be. A slow, shutter finger misses a lot—as does the distracted eye. Perhaps the act of focusing both lens and attention on the miracles of this fleeting world is what attracts us photographers to the pursuit of the photographic image. It really isn’t about photography at all. It’s about being present in a world that increasingly devalues presence.
I saw the Garry Winogrand show at SFMOMA just before the museum closed for expansion. Looking at Winogrand’s world of the street (mid-twentieth century), I was struck by the absence of smart phones and electronic gadgets. People were actually observing and reacting to life and to each other. Walkers seemed interested and engaged. Life was dynamic and interactive.
Today our commutes are mostly filled with endless texting, tweeting and compulsive email checking. Evolution will reorient future generations of the human neck into a downward-facing position. Everyone, everywhere these days is looking down at a phone. What would Winogrand’s photos look like with today’s pod-people world of smart-phone zombies? There’s nothing interesting in those zoned-out faces. We’re all simply numb with information overload.
Perhaps this is why I like the market so much. It’s one place where people are actually present and in the moment. Life there is based upon the seasons and enthusiasm is directed towards loveliness of red, ripe tomato—not the ersatz wit of an inane tweet. Garry would have liked our local market and I suspect that he and his Leica would be roaming around it, looking for ordinary moments.
I photograph to find out what something will look like photographed.”
– Garry Winogrand