Sorry you don't like Winogrand, Rolleiman. A lot of people do. Personally, I find his work interesting, but I'm not crazy about it. Then again, I'm a landscape junkie.
As for the characters having departed, I don't buy it. On my way to work this morning I saw a fight break out between a lady with three purses and a beverage delivery man on his route. Each was quite a character and the two together made quite a scene. A few minutes later, I saw a fellow swaggering down the street with an "eightball" trenchcoat right out of Shaft. The characters are still there, we just have to see them.
Your comments on the plight of progress resonate with me, but I think it's the artists' challenge to rise above that plight. While much great art highlights the out-of-the-ordinary, the greatest art often simply casts a unique light on the decidely mundane.