Lee Friedlander (born 1934)

I’ve been lately getting more and more interested by Lee Friedlander. I should say more and more intrigued. When I first seriously looked at his work I find it somewhat hermetic, with few happening. I really liked picture such as the “revolving door” (reproduced below) very much from the start, it’s a brilliant image, a tricky composition. But otherwise I would no really get it – though I could see many pictures have a weird quirky, almost absurd quality on them. Maybe it is because of the affiliation with “street photography” and indeed what he did/does have few in common with seminal figures such as HCB or Garry Winogrand. There is often too much emphasis put on “story” when it comes to street photography but I guess it is an easy way to define what street photo should be. But Lee Friedlander is too much one of a kind to enter easily such a preconception – though he could do that. I see him as a street photog though. Not that I like the word but I feel that what he found in the streets generally speaking (i.e. the outdoors, cityscapes or whatever public space) helped him to build his vision to put it simply.

New York 1963 © Lee Friedlander

New York 1963 © Lee Friedlander

There is few notion of public vs private in Lee Friedlander’s work. This is particularly obvious in his cars’ back-mirror shots: the public and private are superposed. He kind of extends the public space to whatever things worth photographing, or make the public enter the private. And he would of course project himself in that space. So it is more about the space itself, how it is filled, how it can be filled within the frame of a photograph – and in that sense he is close to Garry Winogrand. I find his nude shots relevant for that matter as well. They are somewhat awkward, crude, “unglamourous”. It is more about exploring the possibilities for a body to fill the frame, to “fulfill” the frame, be it at the expense of the body itself.

Finally I see Lee Friedlander as a very original – and of course inspiring – photographer. I can’t tell to what extent he is truly original, I have no authority on that but I guess he can be considered as such. That is merely a starting point though.

I did few shots recently that IMO somewhat emulate some of Friedlander conceptions and favorite themes (I couldn’t have Madonna posing nude for me though… ).  Some of them were done consciously (such as the self portrait in shop-window and the back-mirror stuff) others not really.

© jacques philippe

© jacques philippe

© jacques philippe

© jacques philippe

© jacques philippe

… Hope you like it despite the superficiality of that kind of exercise.

The NY MOMA website has a huge online collection of Lee Friedlander


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