To be a great photographer, Garry Winogrand liked to claim during the 1970's, it was first of all necessary to be Jewish
July 7, 2002 11:51 AM   Subscribe

To be a great photographer, Garry Winogrand liked to claim during the 1970's, it was first of all necessary to be Jewish Why didn't they tell me this in art school? (via NYTimes)
posted by mrhappy (11 comments total)
They didn't tell you because it's crap.
It's a very, very weak piece: there is no strong theory anywhere, just an observation (many great photogs are Jews, most NY street photographers are Jews) and then the author gets totally lost. It's contradictory and not very interesting.

My favorite quote:

Bourke-White and Mr. Friedlander, for instance, are also half-Jewish. Which part of their work should be considered Jewish and which not?
It's a Woody Allen joke in disguise
posted by matteo at 12:18 PM on July 7, 2002

I'll tell you why (insert 5 minute Jewish conspiracy rant).
posted by geoff. at 12:28 PM on July 7, 2002

And now let's segue into the Middle East chaos.
posted by Postroad at 12:50 PM on July 7, 2002

I've always thought many art school definitions were balderdash. This "Jewish sensibility" in photography seems like one more; too much diversity within the group to make it plausible.

That may not be why your art professors didn't tell you about it. When they talk about sacrificing for your art, they don't usually mean a bris.
posted by evanwolf at 12:52 PM on July 7, 2002

I think this sort of pigeonholing is specious. It's not enough that they're all great photogs? Human beings. Sigh.
posted by donkeyschlong at 12:58 PM on July 7, 2002

From Famous Jews Interactive Jews are at the center of every creative, scientific, cultural, political, ideological movement and endeavor. Jews are over-represented as Nobel Prize recipients, winning at least 20% (that's 1/5) of all awards given to date. Jews founded Hollywood, and are today the dominant cultural influence in television, radio, cinema, journalism and theater in America and elsewhere. Jews are over-represented in all forms of medicine, in all the professions, in every sport, in modeling and fashion, in law-enforcement and the military, in political sex scandals, in new-age religion... In almost everything that represents the free world and all of its trappings, Jews are there.

Choose any field and there are important Jewish contributions - it has to be the runaway most successful culture in the world. A Jewish person growing up in America must have better chance of achieving their dreams than most anyone on earth. Who knows why that is - cultural histories of moving from world capital to world capital, recent memory of horrid persecution, the sense of focus particular to the children of immigrant ethnic parents, or just pumping out stronger folk? Maybe in a couple generations it will seem like all the scientific and artistic notables have Asian heritages.

Sometimes chattering type Canadians can get together and confab about why Canadians are so funny (something to do with Rich Little and Howie Mandel), or why they seem to specialize in short stories (because the New Yorker publishes Alice Munro and Mavis Gallant). And how they went on about special qualities of female Canadians when Shania, Alanis, Celine and Sarah were all at the top of the charts. Any cultural group is going to see the achievements of fellow members of their group as especially large.

Never realized so many photographers were Jewish, but Billy Wilder, Woody Allen and Philip Roth are, so they're pulling their weight culturally.
posted by TimTypeZed at 2:08 PM on July 7, 2002

An alternative and probably equally valid explaination might simply be that Gary Winogrand liked a joke.
posted by normy at 6:36 PM on July 7, 2002

And Van Gogh thought he had to cut off his ear.

I don't have a problem with the idea that cultural or ethnic groups might have greater success in certain fields than others. Certainly Jewish humor seems to be central to the history of modern comedy, for instance, and it's likely it has something to do with the verbal swordplay and irony found in Yiddish. And it's not a novel observation that the semi-outsider often has an eye for seeing that which the insider does not. So, no, this isn't entirely crap. Of course it's an overstatement to say that you have to be X to be a great Y. But it may well be that X gives you an intrinsic advantage -- or that your membership in X gives you an advantage to the larger society Z.

Compare the cultural impact of Irish and Italian immigrants, who tended to settle in cities, to Swedes and Germans, who tended to settle in rural farming areas. Or just compare the advantages of cultural groups who chose to settle in New York City versus others. Chicago has a hell of a lot of Poles, legendarily the second largest Polish city outside Warsaw, but their cultural impact is comparatively low.

There's a lot of factors to look at, but one can hardly dispute the raw numbers.
posted by dhartung at 12:01 AM on July 8, 2002

Jews have always been outsiders. But their "outsideness" is highly artificial, arbitrary. The result is they occupy that space which is outside, but close enough to the "inside" to want, and to be able to fully process it. The result is innovation and creativity.
posted by ParisParamus at 5:02 AM on July 8, 2002

*srcsm* its probably because the Jews are gods chosen people and if Isreal doesnt get ownership of their god given land soon Jesus will never come back to take us to heaven so we can play harps and be happy forever! oh no! im so glad every Slurpie that i buy, at least 7 cents is going towards killing anyone thats not christian or jewish. /*srcsm*
posted by Satapher at 11:30 AM on July 8, 2002

The result is they occupy that space which is outside, but close enough to the "inside" to want, and to be able to fully process it. The result is innovation and creativity.

Perhaps you can elaborate on this, Paris, because it seems like unsubstantiated nonsense to me.
posted by astirling at 12:07 PM on July 8, 2002

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