VCU Department of Photography and Film Chair Sasha Waters Freyer’s documentary — about renowned photographer Gary Winogrand — will feature in the South by Southwest Festival in Austin, Texas in March.
The documentary, “Garry Winogrand: All Things Are Photographable,” which recently soft-premiered in New York, will have its official premiere at the interactive film and music festival.
The film is one of 10 documentaries to premiere at the festival and one of 132 features set to be screened.
Freyer has been fascinated with Winogrand since she was in college and was surprised to discover there was no documentary about his life or career.
“There were interviews or very old clips of him teaching from the 70s and little things you could find on YouTube,” Freyer said. “But no one had sort of looked at everything and told the whole story in the form of a movie.”
Applicants to the festival submitted an online form with an entry fee. Freyer said she hoped the judges would take note of Winogrand’s cultural significance to Austin when considering her documentary. Winogrand lived in Austin for seven years and taught at the University of Texas in the late 1970s.
Freyer felt a sense of jubilation when she was contacted by the festival after being admitted. To make the news even better, it was delivered to Freyer by a programmer she has admired for almost 25 years, Janet Pearson.
Freyer said she admires and respects Pearson’s taste and was excited that she appreciated the film.
Winogrand’s work is rarely taught in modern photography, despite his popularity in the 1970s and 1980s.
“I felt like … let’s go back and revisit his life and his work … because I think the work is really powerful and that it should be seen,” Freyer said. “Seeing them (the photographs) in the film with his voice and the voices of people who knew him is just a different way to experience that work,”
Winogrand was famous for his street photographs of people in New York City. His style of photography — often referred to as snapshot style — was criticized at the time for seeming too “easy” to be considered professional. Freyer said people did not understand the underlying complexity of Winogrand’s photography because they felt like they could take the photos themselves.
One Winogrand photograph that inspires Freyer shows a man with a bandaged nose speeding along in a convertible with his girlfriend, who sports a beehive hairstyle.
“It captures a particular kind of Americana,” Freyer said.
Freyer said she wanted to create a documentary that current Winogrand fans as well as people new to the photographer’s work could appreciate.
“So that was sort of the biggest challenge,” Freyer said. “How to tell his story in a way that wasn’t boring for people who already knew who he was, gave them new information but also brought in other viewers who might be more interested to learn more about him because of the photographs.”
Freyer said one of Winogrand’s best qualities is his acceptance of failure.
“It’s really important to remember to just do the thing you’re passionate about and embrace failure and know that you learn from it.”
Madeline Wheeler Contributing Writer