Lee Friedlander, known for his social landscape and nostalgic photography was born on 14th July 1934 in Aberdeen, Washington. He graduated from high school in 1952 and moved to Los Angeles. Friedlander attended Art Centre College of Design, Pasadena, California to study photography under Edward Kaminski from 1953 to 1955.
In 1956, he moved to New York, in order support himself he started doing photographs of jazz musician for record jackets like Count Bessie (1957). Eugène Atget, Robert Frank and Walker Evans inspired his early work; mainly black and white stills. In 1958, Lee Friedlander experimented with gelatin dry-plates negatives and made prints. These prints were exhibited at E. J. Bellocq: Story Ville Portraits in MOMA in New York in 1970.
In 1960, 1962 and 1977, Guggenheim Memorial Foundation granted Friedlander with Guggenheim Fellowship and Lee Friedlander’s work began to publish in Esquire, Art in America and Sports Illustrated. In 1963, he had his first major exhibition at International Museum of Photography at George Eatsman House at Rochester, New York.
From 1960’s, Friedlander started shooting his stills as “social landscapes” of different places of U.S.A. Urban life, signs and hoardings, fences-framed structures, all depicting the look of moderns society. These images of Newark, New Jersey, are nostalgic, at times depressing, and full of depth.
In the collaboration with Jim Dine, Lee Friedlander focused on Pop Art genre. In 1969, Dine and Friedlander published their work of sketchings and paintings as the Work from the Same House. This work was creative and compiled in a juxtaposition of imagery.
In 1970, He produced another series by the name of Self Portrait. In these black and white stills, Friedlander photographed himself as shadows, in reflections in mirror and glass making such an uncanny effect on viewer about the life and mind of the artist.
Another book of Friedlander’s urban theme photographs was published as Albuquerque. This bleak series covered a desolated and deserted city. Later in 1976, he worked on one of his exceptional projects, The American Monument. He took photographs of over 200 public monuments, covering local, official and other historical figures and memorials. These stills are humorous and lyrical portrayal of the immortality of the nation.
In 1973, Friedlander’s work was honored in Rencontres d’Arles festival (France).
Later in 1979, Akron Art museum commissioned him to produce a photographic documentary on the industrial areas of the Ohio River valley. Lee Friedlander travelled around the city photographing factories, towns and workers. Using his obscure yet remarkable wit he created a stunning reportage, which appeared as Factory Valleys: Ohio and Pennsylvania in 1982.
Further publications by Friedlander are Cherry Blossom Time in Japan (1986) covering the eye-catching landscapes of Japan, Flowers and Trees (1981) stills about the beauty of nature, Portraits (1985) a chronology from 1958 to 1983 and Nudes (1991) in which Friedlander used unusual poses for his images.
Lee Friedlander was diagnosed with arthritis. While being bound at home he photographed his surroundings. During the time of his knee replacement surgery, he produced Stems.
Among his various awards are:
- John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation Award, 1990
- Skowhegan Medal of Photography, 2000
- Royal Photographic Society’s special 150th Anniversary Medal and Honorary Fellowship, 2003
In 2005 and 2008, Museum of Modern Art, San Francisco, displayed the major retrospective of his career. In 2010, Friedlander published America by Car, which was displayed at Fraenkel Gallery, SF and Whitney Museum of American Art, NY.