This major retrospective surveys one of the most inventive and prolific careers in the history of photography. Born in Aberdeen, Washington, in 1934, Lee Friedlander upended the earnest humanism of postwar photography with his lively, irreverent glimpses of city streets and his tongue-in-cheek self-portraits of the 1960s. The offhand wit and graphic verve of those early pictures have never disappeared, but since the early 1970s the photographer’s mastery of craft, affection for tradition, and voracious curiosity have spawned a fluid stream of observation, ever more nimble and sensuous.
Working in extended series that he often makes into books—two dozen of them so far—Friedlander has merged quantity with quality. Friedlander presents some 500 photographs, organized into discrete groups whose subtle variations capture the vitality of a very generous art. Most prominent are several projects, spanning four decades, that offer a vivid and far-reaching vision of what Friedlander calls the “American social landscape.” This central theme is supplemented with portraits, self-portraits, landscapes, still lifes, nudes, studies of people at work, and—exhibited for the first time—a current series of landscapes made in the American West.
The exhibition is accompanied by a major publication that includes over 800 reproductions, essays by Peter Galassi and Richard Benson, and a comprehensive catalogue of Friedlander’s books, special editions, and portfolios.
Organized by Peter Galassi, Chief Curator of Photography.