Mirror, mirror in the street

Dhe most beautiful street photo in the world was taken by Garry Winogrand on a bright summer day in 1968 on the streets of New York in front of the window of a men’s outfitter. A young woman holds an ice cream cone in her hand, tilts her head back and laughs heartily at the camera. Zack, Winogrand had captured the image of pure joie de vivre on film. But it was by no means a random snapshot, as a look at the other images reveals. But a teased out moment. The woman had been standing on the sidewalk with her boyfriend, he too had an ice cream in his hand, and at first it seems that the two of them were talking reasonably seriously. But then they must have noticed Winogrand, and he took the opportunity for a moment’s flirtation, walking closer and closer to the woman and cornering her, in the most charming of ways, one might assume, until she was right in front of the store.

Freddy Langer

Editor in the features section, responsible for the “Reiseblatt”.

However, a laughing woman alone does not make a great photo. The picture only became so through the shop window decoration with a headless clothes rack, over which a jacket hangs, the collar of which takes up the exact shape of the ice cream cone. “Be careful,” the woman seems to be saying, her mouth wide open, “that I don’t lick your head off like this waffle does the ice cream.” The fact that Garry Winogrand is reflected in the window makes him unmistakably the addressee of the cheeky warning. He doesn’t need to expect any help from the passers-by who are rummaging through the picture on the left-hand side.

Will the camera become a weapon?

When Garry Winogrand published his book Women Are Beautiful in 1975, he chose the recording for the title. Half a century later, it is hard to imagine that a street photographer could still corner women to take a picture with impunity, even if filled with shameless enthusiasm; on the contrary. A New York mayor had long considered banning street photography in Manhattan. And in Berlin a few years ago, after a sensational process, the poster for an exhibition had to be taken down because a passer-by recognized herself – and didn’t like it. So what motifs remain for the street photographers, not only to document life in all its facets, but – even more so – to fathom one’s own place in the world? Because street photographs, as Joel Meyerowitz, one of their most important representatives, has explained on occasion, are first and foremost self-portraits. The photographer tries to find his own state of mind reflected in the outside world.

Now Gulnara Samoilova, who grew up in the Russian Republic of Bashkortostan but moved to New York in 1992, where she is one of the leading photo reporters, has brought together a group of international street photographers who post their pictures on Instagram as “womenstreetphotographers”, who exhibit together, also virtually on the net, and share their experiences and expectations. It is not to be expected that they corner men in the streets until they laugh uproariously in their lenses. But what could make up the female gaze on the street? Will the camera become a weapon? Is it like a protective shield? Or does it become a kind of carte blanche, a self-granted authorization to go and look wherever one pleases?

Joanna Mrowka: Playful in Badami, India

picture series

Women Street Photographers

Mirror, mirror in the street

Gulnara Samoilova is not a novice photographer. Twenty years ago she lived five blocks from the World Trade Center and ran straight there as soon as she heard the first bang, first photographing injured, screaming people coming towards her on the street, then from a worm’s-eye view the moment when the first Tower trembled, and henceforth, miraculously surviving, people fleeing in panic amid a fall of ash. With these pictures of the terrorist attack of September 11, 2001, she won the World Press Photo Prize. If she sees a social task behind street photography today, it carries a lot of weight. “I think street photography brings people together,” she says. “The more men and women look at the world through women’s eyes, the more heartfelt and understanding we will meet with one another, across differences.”

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