Tod Papageorge shared with me a talk Garry Winogrand gave at MIT in 1974, which he (Papageorge) introduced. An audio recording from the University of California Riverside’s archive captures much of the lively question and answer period, which included a wealth of fantastic material. Here are two of my favorites:

A photograph has to be rational. It has to be rational in itself. It has to be rational and complete. … it is the illusion of a literal description of what the camera saw. From it, you can know very little. It has no narrative ability. You don’t know what happened from the photography. You know how a piece of time and space looked to a camera.

This quote relates to Papageorge’s sentiment I posted yesterday, that a photograph is a picture and not the world.

Still photography is the clumsiest way to exercise imagination, to illustrate literary ideas. Anybody with a pencil beats you. Period. To take a simple illustration of the point: if you wanted a melted watch, how do you get it? Dali can have one anytime he wants. You see? It is the clumsiest way to exercise imagination. It’s tantamount to driving a nail in with a saw, when you can use a hammer.

The resistance of materials is something I think about a lot. A machine like the Atari is not the same as a rangefinder or a view camera… and I’m not sure if it’s worse or better. Exercising imagination with the Atari feels tantamount to driving a nail in with a ferret.

published October 6, 2011


  1. dmf

    yes i prefer resistance talk to talking of withdrawal, keeps the mangles of practices in mind.

  2. Bart

    what happened to the idea of constraint as the mother of invention or creativity or imagination as the case may be?

  3. Ian Bogost

    Oh, that’s still compatible with the ferrets, Bart.