Lee Friedlander

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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, and studied 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 only $25 for her 1979 set. In 2009, one of the images fetched $37,500 at a Christie's Art House auction.[1]

Working primarily with Leica hand-held 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.[2] 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.[3][4] 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,[5] including nearly 400 photographs from the 1950s to the present; it was presented again in 2008 at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art.[6]

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. These images display textures which were not a feature of his earlier work. In this sense, the images are similar to those of Josef Sudek who also photographed the confines of his home and studio.[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.[7][8]

It has been claimed that Friedlander is "notoriously media shy".[8]

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



Selected solo exhibitions[edit]

  • 1963: George Eastman House, curated by Nathan Lyons. Friedlander's first solo exhibition.[2]
  • 1986: "Cherry Blossom Time in Japan," Laurence Miller Gallery, New York City, November 12 - December 13
  • 1988: "Lee Friedlander: Cray at Chippewa Falls," Laurence Miller Gallery, New York City, March 31 - May 14
  • 1989: "Like a One-Eyed Cat: Photographs by Lee Friedlander 1956-1987," Laurence Miller Gallery, New York City, February 21 - April 8
  • 1991: "Lee Friedlander: A Selection of Nudes," Laurence Miller Gallery, New York City, October 10 - November 23
  • 1991: "Lee Friedlander: Work in Progress/Sonora Desert," Laurence Miller Gallery, New York City, October 10 - November 23
  • 2005: Friedlander, Museum of Modern Art, New York, 5 June – 29 August 2005.[5]
  • 2008: Friedlander, San Francisco Museum of Modern Art.[6]
  • 2008: America By Car, Fraenkel Gallery, San Francisco.[16]
  • 2008: Lee Friedlander: A Ramble in Olmsted Parks, Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, 22 January – 11 May 2008. Organised by Jeff L. Rosenheim.[7]
  • 2010: America By Car, Whitney Museum of American Art, New York.[17]

Selected group exhibitions[edit]

Further reading[edit]

  • Lee Friedlander: "The Little Screens" by Saul Anton, 2015, MIT Press


  1. ^ "Nude photo of Madonna goes for $37,500". CNN. 12 February 2009. 
  2. ^ a b "McDonald, Jessica. Ed. Nathan Lyons : Selected Essays, Lectures, and Interviews. Harry Ransom Photography Series.". Austin: University of Texas Press. 2012. Pg. 10. 
  3. ^ a b "No. 21" (PDF). Museum of Modern Art. Retrieved 26 December 2014. 
  4. ^ a b O'Hagan, Sean (20 July 2010). "Was John Szarkowski the most influential person in 20th-century photography?". The Guardian. Retrieved 26 December 2014. 
  5. ^ a b "Friedlander", Museum of Modern Art. Accessed 31 December 2014.
  6. ^ a b "Exhibition Overview: Friedlander". San Francisco: Museum of Modern Art. 
  7. ^ a b "Lee Friedlander: A Ramble in Olmsted Parks". Metropolitan Museum of Art. Retrieved 8 February 2015. 
  8. ^ a b Kennedy, Randy (3 January 2008). "Compositions That Come Naturally". The New York Times. Retrieved 8 February 2015. 
  9. ^ "Lee Friedlander". John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation. Retrieved 26 December 2014. 
  10. ^ "Medal Day History". MacDowell Colony. Retrieved 20 November 2015. 
  11. ^ "MacDowell Medal winners 1960-2011". London: The Daily Telegraph. 13 April 2011. Retrieved 20 November 2015. 
  12. ^ Holland, Bernard (10 August 1987). "Bernstein Wins MacDowell Medal". The New York Times. Retrieved 20 November 2015. 
  13. ^ Royal Photographic Society's Centenary Award Accessed 13 August 2012
  14. ^ "Lee Friedlander". Hasselblad Foundation. Retrieved 26 December 2014. 
  15. ^ "2006 Infinity Award: Lifetime Achievement". International Center of Photography. 3 April 2006. Retrieved 2 September 2016. 
  16. ^ "Fraenkel Gallery: Past and future exhibitions". Art Net. 
  17. ^ "Lee Friedlander: America By Car, September 4 – November 28, 2010". Whitney Museum of American Art. Retrieved 2010-12-14. 
  18. ^ Lyons, Nathan (1966). Toward a Social Landscape: Bruce Davidson, Lee Friedlander, Garry Winogrand, Danny Lyons, Duane Michals. New York, NY: Horizon Press. OCLC 542009. 

External links[edit]