Despite their seemingly ordinary subjects, Friedlander’s photographs reveal his untiring appetite for experimentation. Visible in Glenwood Springs, Colorado are the storefronts of the town’s main street as well as the surrounding hillsides. The picture is, in fact, a reflection in a window, which serves as a mirror for the outside world; lowered blinds behind the windowpane obstruct the view inward. The image deftly combines the genres of landscape photography, street photography, and self-portraiture. Across the top, the word “LAND” appears stenciled on the glass, hovering above the photographer’s reflected silhouette, reminding viewers that the image can be regarded as a partial landscape. As letters embedded in Friedlander’s own name, “LAND” also suggests that the photograph is simultaneously an incomplete self-portrait.
This work belongs to Letters from the People, a photographic series capturing text in public places—from graffiti to commercial signs—that Friedlander undertook in the early 1980s. It is also linked to the numerous shopwindow pictures he has made since the mid-1960s, many of which include his own reflection or shadow, thus rendering him an active participant in the scene. Friedlander is recognized for his adventurous investigation of America’s “social landscape,” a term he coined, as well as for his striking ability to arrange his ever-changing pictorial vocabulary into inventive compositions.
Publication excerpt from MoMA Highlights: 375 Works from The Museum of Modern Art, New York (New York: The Museum of Modern Art, 2019)