Lee Friedlander

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Lee Friedlander
Born (1934-07-14) July 14, 1934 (age 88)
Aberdeen, Washington
Alma materArt Center College of Design
(m. 1958)

Lee Friedlander (born July 14, 1934) is an American photographer and artist. In the 1960s and 1970s, Friedlander evolved an influential and often imitated visual language of urban "social landscape," with many of his photographs including fragments of store-front reflections, structures framed by fences, posters and street signs.

Life and work[edit]

Friedlander was born in Aberdeen, Washington on July 14, 1934[1] to Kaari Nurmi (Finnish descent) and Fritz (Fred) Friedlander (a German-Jewish émigré). His mother Kaari died of cancer when he was seven years old. Already earning pocket-money as a photographer since he was 14, he went on at the age of 18, to study photography at the Art Center College of Design in Pasadena, California. In 1956, he moved to New York City, where he photographed jazz musicians for record covers. His early work was influenced by Eugène Atget, Robert Frank, and Walker Evans. In 1960, Friedlander was awarded a Guggenheim Fellowship to focus on his art, and was awarded subsequent grants in 1962 and 1977. Some of his most famous photographs appeared in the September 1985 Playboy, black and white nude photographs of Madonna from the late 1970s. A student at the time, she was paid $25 for her 1979 set. In 2009, one of the images fetched $37,500 at a Christie's Art House auction.[2]

Working primarily with hand-held Leica 35 mm cameras and black-and-white film, Friedlander's style focused on the "social landscape". His photographs used detached images of urban life, store-front reflections, structures framed by fences, and posters and signs all combining to capture the look of modern life.[citation needed]

In 1963, Nathan Lyons, assistant director and Curator of Photography at the International Museum of Photography at George Eastman House mounted Friedlander's first solo exhibition.[3] Friedlander was then a key figure in curator John Szarkowski's 1967 "New Documents" exhibition, at the Museum of Modern Art in New York along with Garry Winogrand and Diane Arbus.[4][5] In 1973, his work was honored at the Rencontres d'Arles festival in France with the screening "Soirée américaine : Judy Dater, Jack Welpott, Jerry Uelsmann, Lee Friedlander" presented by Jean-Claude Lemagny. In 1990, the MacArthur Foundation awarded Friedlander a MacArthur Fellowship. In 2005, the Museum of Modern Art presented a major retrospective of Friedlander's career,[6] including nearly 400 photographs from the 1950s to the present; it was presented again in 2008 at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art.[7] In 2022, contemporary photographer Joseph Maida discussed Friedlander's work from the 1970s and 80's in his monograph A Third Look,.[8]

While suffering from arthritis and housebound, he focused on photographing his surroundings. His book Stems reflects his life during the time of his knee replacement surgery. He has said that his "limbs" reminded him of plant stems.[citation needed]

Friedlander began photographing parks designed by Frederick Law Olmsted for a six-year commission from the Canadian Centre for Architecture in Montreal beginning in 1988. After completing the commission he continued to photograph Olmsted parks, for twenty years in total. His series includes New York City's Central Park; Brooklyn's Prospect Park; Manhattan's Morningside Park; World's End in Hingham, Massachusetts; Cherokee Park in Louisville, Kentucky; and Niagara Falls State Park. On the occasion of the 150th anniversary of the design for Central Park, the Metropolitan Museum of Art held an exhibition of Friedlander's photographs of that park and a book was published, Photographs: Frederick Law Olmsted Landscapes.[9][10]

He now works primarily with medium format cameras such as the Hasselblad Superwide.[citation needed]

Personal life[edit]

It has been claimed that Friedlander is "notoriously media shy".[10]

He married his wife Maria in 1958.[11] She has been the subject of many of his portraits.[11]

Their daughter Anna is married to photographer Thomas Roma.


  • E.J. Bellocq: Storyville Portraits. Photographs from the New Orleans Red-Light District, Circa 1912. New York: Museum of Modern Art, 1970. With a preface by Friedlander.
  • Self Portrait.
    • New City, NY: Self-published / Haywire Press, 1970.
    • New York: Distributed Art Publishers; San Francisco: Fraenkel Gallery, 1998. ISBN 1-881616-96-7. Revised edition. By Friedlander and John Szarkowski.
    • New York: Museum of Modern Art, 2005. ISBN 0-87070-338-2. With a preface by Friedlander and an afterword by John Szarkowski, "The Friedlander Self". According to the colophon, "This third edition retains the new material of the 1998 edition except in its design, which returns to that of the original book."
  • The American Monument. New York: Eakins Press Foundation, 1976. ISBN 0-87130-043-5.
  • Lee Friedlander Photographs. New City, NY: Self-published / Haywire Press, 1978.
  • Factory Valleys: Ohio & Pennsylvania. New York: Callaway Editions, 1982. ISBN 0-935112-04-9.
  • Lee Friedlander Portraits. Boston: Little, Brown, 1985. ISBN 0-8212-1602-3.
  • Like a One-Eyed Cat: Photographs by Lee Friedlander, 1956–1987. New York: Harry N. Abrams in association with the Seattle Art Museum, 1989. ISBN 0-8109-1274-0.
  • CRAY at Chippewa Falls: Photographs by Lee Friedlander, Cray Research, Inc., 1987. Library of Congress Catalog Card Number 86-73134
  • Nudes. New York: Pantheon, 1991. ISBN 0-679-40484-8.
  • The Jazz People of New Orleans. New York: Pantheon, 1992. ISBN 0-679-41638-2.
  • Maria. Washington: Smithsonian, 1992. ISBN 1-56098-207-1.
  • Letters from the People.
  • Bellocq: Photographs from Storyville, the Red-Light District of New Orleans. New York: Random House, 1996. ISBN 0-679-44975-2.
  • The Desert Seen. New York: Distributed Art Publishers, 1996. ISBN 1-881616-75-4.
  • Viewing Olmsted: Photographs by Robert Burley, Lee Friedlander, and Geoffrey James. Montréal: Canadian Centre for Architecture, 1996. ISBN 0-920785-58-1. By Phyllis Lambert.[12]
  • American Musicians: Photographs by Lee Friedlander. New York: Distributed Art Publishers, 1998. ISBN 1-56466-056-7. By Friedlander, Steve Lacy, and Ruth Brown.
  • Lee Friedlander. San Francisco: Fraenkel Gallery, 2000. ISBN 1-881337-09-X.
  • Lee Friedlander at Work. New York: Distributed Art Publishers, 2002. ISBN 1-891024-48-5.
  • Stems. New York: Distributed Art Publishers, 2003. ISBN 1-891024-75-2.
  • Lee Friedlander: Sticks and Stones: Architectural America. San Francisco: Fraenkel Gallery, 2004. ISBN 1-891024-97-3. By Friedlander and James Enyeart.
  • Friedlander. New York: Museum of Modern Art, 2005. ISBN 0-87070-343-9. By Peter Galassi.
  • Cherry Blossom Time in Japan: The Complete Works. San Francisco: Fraenkel Gallery, 2006. ISBN 1-881337-20-0.
  • Lee Friedlander: New Mexico. Santa Fe, NM: Radius Books, 2008. ISBN 978-1-934435-11-3. By Friedlander, Andrew Smith, and Emily Ballew Neff.
  • Photographs: Frederick Law Olmsted Landscapes. New York: Distributed Art Publishers, 2008. ISBN 978-1933045733.
  • America by Car. San Francisco: Fraenkel Gallery, 2010. ISBN 978-1-935202-08-0.
  • Portraits: The Human Clay: Volume 1. New Haven, CT: Yale University, 2015. ISBN 978-0-300-21520-5.
  • Children: The Human Clay: Volume 2. New Haven, CT: Yale University, 2015. ISBN 978-0-300-21519-9.
  • Street: The Human Clay: Volume 3. New Haven, CT: Yale University, 2016. ISBN 978-0-300-22177-0.
  • Head. Oakland, CA: TBW Books, 2017. Subscription Series #5, Book #4. ISBN 978-1-942953-28-9. Edition of 1000 copies. Friedlander, Mike Mandel, Susan Meiselas and Bill Burke each had one book in a set of four.



Solo exhibitions[edit]

Group exhibitions[edit]

Further reading[edit]


  1. ^ "Lee Friedlander – Biography and Legacy".
  2. ^ "Nude photo of Madonna goes for $37,500". CNN. February 12, 2009.
  3. ^ a b McDonald, Jessica, ed. (June 5, 2012). Nathan Lyons: Selected Essays, Lectures, and Interviews. Harry Ransom Photography Series. Austin: University of Texas Press. 2012. p. 10. ISBN 978-0-292-73771-6.
  4. ^ a b "No. 21" (PDF). Museum of Modern Art. Retrieved December 26, 2014.
  5. ^ a b O'Hagan, Sean (July 20, 2010). "Was John Szarkowski the most influential person in 20th-century photography?". The Guardian. Retrieved December 26, 2014.
  6. ^ a b "Friedlander". Museum of Modern Art. Retrieved December 31, 2014.
  7. ^ a b "Exhibition Overview: Friedlander". San Francisco: Museum of Modern Art.
  8. ^ Quinlan, Adriane (March 3, 2022). "A Re-Examination of the Nude". New York Times Style Magazine. Retrieved April 22, 2022.
  9. ^ a b "Lee Friedlander: A Ramble in Olmsted Parks". Metropolitan Museum of Art. Retrieved February 8, 2015.
  10. ^ a b Kennedy, Randy (January 3, 2008). "Compositions That Come Naturally". The New York Times. Retrieved February 8, 2015.
  11. ^ a b Wiley, Chris (January 11, 2019). "Lee Friedlander's Intimate Portraits of His Wife, Through Sixty Years of Marriage". The New Yorker.
  12. ^ "Viewing Olmsted: Photographs by Robert Burley, Lee Friedlander and Geoffrey James". Canadian Centre for Architecture. Retrieved May 8, 2020.
  13. ^ "Lee Friedlander". John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation. Archived from the original on December 26, 2014. Retrieved December 26, 2014.
  14. ^ a b "John Simon Guggenheim Foundation | Lee Friedlander". Retrieved August 26, 2020.
  15. ^ "Medal Day History". MacDowell Colony. Archived from the original on August 10, 2016. Retrieved November 20, 2015.
  16. ^ "MacDowell Medal winners 1960–2011". London: The Daily Telegraph. April 13, 2011. Retrieved November 20, 2015.
  17. ^ Holland, Bernard (August 10, 1987). "Bernstein Wins MacDowell Medal". The New York Times. Retrieved November 20, 2015.
  18. ^ "MacArthur Foundation". www.macfound.org. Retrieved July 21, 2018.
  19. ^ Royal Photographic Society's Centenary Award Archived December 1, 2012, at the Wayback Machine Accessed 13 August 2012
  20. ^ "Lee Friedlander". Hasselblad Foundation. Retrieved December 26, 2014.
  21. ^ "2006 Infinity Award: Lifetime Achievement". International Center of Photography. April 3, 2006. Retrieved September 2, 2016.
  22. ^ "The Lucie Awards". Lucie Awards. Retrieved August 9, 2018.
  23. ^ "Letters from the People: Photographs by Lee Friedlander". Canadian Centre for Architecture. Retrieved April 9, 2020.
  24. ^ "Fraenkel Gallery: Past and future exhibitions". Art Net.
  25. ^ "Lee Friedlander: America by Car, September 4 – November 28, 2010". Whitney Museum of American Art. Retrieved December 14, 2010.
  26. ^ "Lee Friedlander in Louisiana". New Orleans Museum of Art. Retrieved May 4, 2018.
  27. ^ "Lee Friedlander: American Musicians". New Orleans Museum of Art. Retrieved May 4, 2018.
  28. ^ Lyons, Nathan (1966). Toward a Social Landscape: Bruce Davidson, Lee Friedlander, Garry Winogrand, Danny Lyons, Duane Michals. New York, NY: Horizon Press. OCLC 542009.
  29. ^ "Viewing Olmsted: Photographs by Robert Burley, Lee Friedlander, and Geoffrey James". Canadian Centre for Architecture. Retrieved May 8, 2020.
  30. ^ "Olmsted, Burley, Friedlander, James: Three Contemporary Photographers Interpret the Work of Frederick Law Olmsted". Canadian Centre for Architecture. Retrieved May 8, 2020.

External links[edit]