Lee Friedlander was born in Aberdeen, Washington, and became interested in photography at age fourteen. He studied photography at the Art Center School in Los Angeles from 1953 to 1955 and then began freelancing. His work appeared in Esquire, Art in America, Sports Illustrated, and other periodicals, and he had his first solo exhibition at the George Eastman House in 1963. Subsequent exhibitions of his work include "Toward a Social Landscape" at the George Eastman House in 1966 and "New Documents" at the Museum of Modern Art in 1967, both of which identified his photographs with those of other "social landscape" photographers such as Garry Winogrand, Bruce Davidson, Danny Lyon, and Diane Arbus. Friedlander has published books regularly: Work from the Same House (with Jim Dine, 1969), Self-Portrait (1970), Flowers and Trees (1981), Lee Friedlander: Portraits (1985), and Cray at Chippewa Falls (1987). He has also produced the book Nudes (1991), and The Jazz People of New Orleans (1992). He has received a number of awards for his photography, including three Guggenheim Fellowships; five National Endowment for the Arts Fellowships; and a MacArthur Foundation Award. Friedlander is responsible for printing the negatives of the turn-of-the-century New Orleans photographer E.J. Bellocq, whom he rescued from oblivion.
Friedlander's photography follows in the tradition of documentary photography as practiced by Walker Evans and Robert Frank. It is unusual for street photography in that it possesses a constant awareness of the photographer's relationship to the picture plane and places at least as much importance on it as on the image's ostensible subject--usually something like an empty street, a store window, or an unremarkable piece of town statuary. Friedlander's photographs also often contain his shadow and/or reflection, which lends an odd, uncomfortable edge to his observations.
© ICP New York / Lisa Hostetler