Lee Friedlander is one of the most important of the 1960s generation of photographers for whom the posture of disinterested objectivity served as a vehicle for passionate personal inquiries. His large body of work--he most often produces extended series of pictures on a chosen theme, then publishes them in book form--is broad in subject matter and supple and complex in style, and focuses on what he calls America's "social landscape." At the same time, he has pursued a playful dialogue with artistic tradition--as though open-eyed curiosity about the world, and a sophisticated taste for the wiles of picture-making were one and the same thing. Lee Friedlander takes a deep critical look at Friedlander's abundantly productive career. Including over 500 photographs grouped by series, and an incisive essay by Peter Galassi, Chief Curator of Photography at The Museum of Modern Art, this oversized publication is the most comprehensive review of the photographer's career to date.
The hipster wit and graphic verve of Lee Friedlander's irreverent glimpses of the city street and tongue-in-cheek self-portraits of the 1960s delivered a bracing jolt to American photography. Since the early 1970s his mastery of craft, playful affection for tradition, and voracious curiosity have transformed that early style into a fluid stream of observation, ever more capacious, nimble, and sensuous.
Working in extended series that he often makes into books-some two dozen so far-Friedlander has become one of the most prolific artists in photography's history. The considerable range of his work over the past five decades-including portraits, nudes, still lifes, and studies of people at work-is anchored in a uniquely vivid and far-reaching vision of the American scene.Friedlander, published to accompany a major retrospective exhibition at The Museum of Modern Art, generously surveys the entire range of the photographer's work to date in 764 plates presented as an unfolding series of family groups.
Some groups are devoted to major projects-including Self Portrait (1970), The American Monument (1976), Portraits (1985), Nudes (1991), and Sticks & Stones: Architectural America (2004)-while others, rigorously organized by date, theme, and style, further enable readers to chart the evolution of an extraordinarily rich career. The book's large pages accommodate telling juxtapositions as well as ample reproductions of Friedlander's square-format photographs of the past decade, when a change of cameras made ail of his old problems new again and opened fresh paths of discovery.
The plates conclude with a suiteof landscapes made in the American West, published for the first time. At once magisterial and bizarre, these pictures attest to the undiminished vitality of Friedlander's eye. In the book's main essay, Peter Galassi, the Museum's Chief Curator of Photography, offers the first in-depth account of Friedlander's career. Richard Benson, Dean of the Yale University School of Art, contributes a second essay telling the story of his own role in making Friedlander's books.
The first detailed catalogue of Friedlander's books, special editions, and portfolios, along with a chronology and bibliography, conclude the volume.
Peter Galassi is chief Curator Photography, The Museum of Modern Art, New York. The Museum has published many of his books, including most recently Andreas Gursky (2001) and Walker Evans & Company (2000). Richard Benson is Dean of the Yale University School of Art. His books include A Maritime Album : 100 Photographs and Their Stories (with John Szarkowski, 1997) and Lay This Laurel (with Lincoln Kirstein, 1972).
Lee Friedlander,The Museum of Modern Art Peter Galassi