Trio of Swells, 2010
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Lee Friedlander is one of the country’s most respected photographers, known for his use of black-and-white photography to portray America’s social landscape. It may sound silly to say, but Friedlander’s style would be very much at home at Flickr, where there are many who photograph on similar themes in similar style. Of Freidlander’s approach, Michael Kimmelman of the New York Times wrote:
“With Winogrand's appetite and aplomb but with fewer neuroses than either Winogrand or Arbus; without Mr. Frank's anger or Evans's caustic wit - just by being rather cool and nonchalant, he has, over the years, refined a mischievous but fundamentally rigorous and unforgiving style.”
I’m sure that in my own study of the history of photography I have seen and studied many of Friedlander’s photographs. If you asked me to identify a single Friedlander image, though, I’m not sure I could come up with one as easily as I can recall the work of some of the other greats of photography.
In fact, I wouldn’t even be writing about Friedlander now if I hadn’t come across a spread in the September 20, 2012 issue of The New Yorker magazine about an exhibit of Friedlander’s work that opens at New York’s Pace/McGill Gallery in late October.
Pace/McGill’s a prestigious gallery. Friedlander was a groundbreaker in taking on the everyday fabric of American life. I have no beef with them, him or this exhibit.
Okay, I guess I do. When I looked at the New Yorker spread, I thought someone had stolen some of my black-and-white images. Here in the magazine in a two-page were five images that could have been from me. They include two recurring themes of mine, window reflections and mannequins. I’ve even been working on a collection of images very much like Friedlander’s taken over the last several years.
Friedlander - Part of a New Yorker Spread, 2012
And now he’s gone and scooped me! But truthfully, I bear Lee Friedlander no ill will. His work made it possible for others of us to be taken seriously on occasion. It’s just that if I go forward with this project, I suppose it will always be considered homage to Friedlander.
J. Press, 2007
I guess I could do worse.