Neil Winokur’s photographs are in many of America’s top museum collections. In the ‘70s and ‘80s he ran with New York’s downtown arts set, mingling with the likes of Warhol and Mapplethorpe. Despite his impressive credentials, his work remains relatively unknown. Last year Matthew Leifheit (Vice photo editor) stated, “Nobody I talk to under the age of 40 knows the work of Neil Winokur.” His photographs, while poppy, engaging, and slyly humorous, have never achieved wide exposure, despite their aesthetic and contextual significance.
Neil’s manner is direct and modest. He once told The Times: “I photograph objects because they never move or complain about the way they look.” He told us, “I started with what I thought were iconic objects. I photographed an American flag, a Barbie doll, a heart. Then I realized that, you know, all objects are important. If it’s something people use all the time, it’s important.”
His latest show “31 Essential Objects,” valorizes the accessible, the ordinary. “Does the cost of something make it look better?” he asks. “Probably not. Probably the opposite.”
“It seems to me that almost everything is ordinary. As such, equally as important.”
In speaking of influences, Winokur mentions Paul Outerbridge, a photographer known for his early color experiements. Outerbridge received wide-spread acclaim before dropping off the map due to his scandolous nudes and fetish-photos. According to Neil, “Before he lost his business he did this series of photos of a shirt collar, of a tie tack, he basically did in black in white what I do in color. They were beautiful, beautiful advertising photographs.”
Winokur's "Objects" are less influenced by advertising, and more in step with his early headshots. He discussed his tendency to scale prints to the size of his subject. “When I first started I did headshots and they were pretty much life-size. When I do portraits of dogs I try to do them life-size. I usually try to think of things to scale. I did the tweezers and nail clippers smaller and the chef's knife bigger. I didn’t purposely do it for this show. I do that instinctively without even thinking about it.”
Find Neil’s guided audio tour of his new show, below.