Friedlander, Lee (Norman) 1934-

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FRIEDLANDER, Lee (Norman) 1934-


Born July 14, 1934, in Aberdeen, WA; married Maria DePaoli, 1958; children: Erik, Anna. Education: Attended Los Angeles Art Center School; studied photography under Edward Kaminski.


Home—44 South Mountain Rd., New City, NY 10956. Agent—c/o Author Mail, Distributed Art Publishers, 155 Sixth Ave., 2nd Fl., New York, NY 10013.


Photographer. Atlantic Records, photographer, 1950s; freelance photographer, 1955—; University of Minnesota, Minneapolis, artist-in-residence, 1966; University of California, Los Angeles, guest lecturer, 1970; Rice University, Houston, TX, Mellon Professor of Fine Arts, 1977. Exhibitions: Individual and group exhibitions in the United States, Canada, and Europe, beginning 1963; work is included in permanent collections at the Museum of Modern Art, New York, NY, Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, MA, Fogg Art Museum, Harvard University, Cambridge, MA, Smithsonian Institution, Washington, DC, New Orleans Museum of Art, LA, University of Kansas, Lawrence, National Gallery of Canada, Ottawa, Ontario, and Victoria and Albert Museum, London, England.


Guggenheim fellowship, 1960, 1962, 1977; National Endowment for the Arts fellowship, 1972, 1977, 1978, 1979, 1980; Friends of Photography Peer Award, 1980; Medal of the City of Paris, 1981; Edward MacDowell Medal, 1986; John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation award, 1990.


(With Jim Dine) Work from the Same House: Photographs and Etchings, Trigram (London, England), 1969.

Self Portrait, Haywire Press (New York, NY), 1970.

(Editor) E. J. Bellocq: Storyville Portraits, [New York], 1970.

The American Monument, Eakins (New York, NY), 1976.

The Nation's Capital in Photographs, 1976 (catalogue), The Gallery (Washington, DC), 1976.

Photographs, Haywire Press (New York, NY), 1978.

Flowers and Trees, Haywire Press (New York, NY), 1981.

Factory Valleys: Ohio and Pennsylvania, Callaway Editions (New York, NY), 1982.

Lee Friedlander: Portraits, Little, Brown (Boston, MA), 1985.

Cherry Blossom Time in Japan, [New York], 1986.

Cray at Chippewa Falls, Cray Research (Minneapolis, MN), 1987.

Lee Friedlander, Pantheon Books (New York, NY), 1988.

(With Robert Cumming and Jan Groover) Three on Technology: New Photographs, MIT List Visual Arts Center (Cambridge, MA), 1988.

Like a One-eyed Cat: Photographs by Lee Friedlander, H. N. Abrams (New York, NY), 1989.

Nudes, Pantheon Books (New York, NY), 1991.

The Jazz People of New Orleans, Pantheon Books (New York, NY), 1992.

Maria, Smithsonian Institution Press (Washington, DC), 1992.

Letters from the People, J. Cape (London, England), 1993.

(With Robert Burley and Geoffrey James) Viewing Olmstead, edited by Phyllis Lambert, MIT Press (Cambridge, MA), 1996.

Bellocq: Photographs from Storyville, the Red-Light District of New Orleans, J. Cape (London, England), 1996.

The Desert Seen, Distributed Art Publishers (New York, NY), 1996.

American Musicians, Distributed Art Publishers (New York, NY), 1998.

Lee Friedlander at Work, Distributed Art Publishers (New York, NY), 2002.

Staglieno, Nazraeli (Tucson, AZ), 2002.

Lee Friedlander: Stems, Distributed Art Publishers (New York, NY), 2003.

Contributor to publications, including Esquire, McCall's, Art in America, Current, Harper's Bazaar, and Camera; contributor to books, including the introduction to Arrivals and Departures: The Airport Pictures of Garry Winogrand, Distributed Art Publishers (New York, NY), 2002.


Photographer Lee Friedlander's early work consisted of cover shots for record albums of such jazz musicians as Count Basie, Ray Charles, Miles Davis, Charles Mingus, and Billie Holiday, and these were collected decades later in American Musicians. As a teen, Friedlander was inspired by jazz saxophonist Charlie Parker, whose music helped him to understand the possibilities that were open to him as an artist.

Some of the people in American Musicians are in relaxed poses, such as Sarah Vaughan taking a nap or Art Blakey feeding his baby a bottle. Friedlander has continued to photograph musicians throughout his career, including country, gospel, and folk artists, and not of all of his subjects are stars. American Musicians includes photographs of singers in church choirs, New Orleans marching bands, and street musicians playing for change. Malcolm Jones, Jr., wrote in Newsweek that Friedlander "loves to show us the artists, famous or not, as people just getting through the day."

From the beginning, Friedlander photographed what interested him, and many of his images are of urban scenes and people, often reflected from the glass of a store display window. He briefly attended art school, then studied privately with Edward Kaminski. Hailed as one of the up-and-coming photographers of the 1960s, his first one-man show was in 1963 at the George Eastman House in Rochester, New York. In 1967 John Szarkowski, director of the photography department at the Museum of Modern in Art in New York city, exhibited Friedlander's work along with that of Diane Arbus and Friedlander's close friend Garry Winogrand in a show titled "New Documents." This exhibition was a milestone in Friedlander's career and brought him acclaim and a larger audience.

In an essay on the University of Washington Web site, Rod Slemmons wrote that "ultimately, Friedlander's photographs at the time of New Documents, and later, probably have more in common with Dadaist ideas of the 1920s than they do with the long tradition of American documentary photography. This relationship, perhaps initiated by Edward Kaminski, who had studied the work of the Surrealists and Dadaists, suggests an additional way of understanding Friedlander's work." Slemmons said that Friedlander produces "collage-like images …in which odd bits of conflicting information collide, some with more serious implications than others. He provides us with a new visual world in which obstruction, confusion, accident, and sometimes explosion are the driving forces. He does not provide us with a tastefully designed picture that is easy to get around in or familiar. Like the Dadaists, he is breaking some of the rules of art and reforming others to better suit his wit and intuition." Slemmons wrote that "much of Friedlander's work, especially the street photography and flowers and trees series, suggests the jazz tradition: gestural freedom of improvisation combined with highly complex, and cumulative, formal structure."

Friedlander's subjects have included other people, as well as himself. His Self Portrait contains photographs of Friedlander taken over ten years, either of his image or his shadow. He has restored the work of photographer E. J. Bellocq, who early in the twentieth century took pictures of women in the red-light district of New Orleans called Storyville, where prostitution was legal. Friedlander discovered eighty-nine glass negatives in a New Orleans gallery in 1958 and made prints from them. They were exhibited at the Museum of Modern Art in 1970 and collected in a book nearly forty years later.

The American Monument contains more than 200 photographs of memorialized war and civic heroes and battle sites, as well as statues of musicians and American icons, like Bill "Bojangles" Robinson and cowboy Tom Mix. Factory Valleys: Ohio and Pennsylvania is a collection of photographs commissioned by the Akron Art Museum that show the factory workers of the region and a bleak winter landscape.

In 1985 John Rollwagen of Cray Research, Inc. asked Friedlander to photograph the company's computer facility in Wisconsin. While there, Friedlander also took photographs of the landscape around the plant and included these in the final book, Cray at Chippewa Falls, which was a gift to Cray employees. "The result of this multi-layered seeing is a unique visual metaphor for what goes on at Cray," said Slemmons. "The sensuous chaos of the trees suggests the impossibly numerous wires of the super computers as well as the hair of the computer technicians."

Like a One-eyed Cat: Photographs by Lee Friedlander collects thirty years of his work in black and white. With Nudes, Friedlander shows young women in their stark nakedness, bumps, warts and all, alongside such inanimate objects as a door frame, desk, and flower pot. Included are four studies of the entertainer Madonna, shot before she rose to stardom, that were rejected by Penthouse because she was not well groomed. Times Literary Supplement contributor Brian Case said that "she could be an extra in some Italian Neo-realist film with her unshaven armpits, bobby pins, and hairy legs."

The Jazz People of New Orleans contains nearly 100 photographs taken between 1957 and 1974, mostly of people who were being interviewed by Tulane jazz scholars Richard Allen and William Russell for the university's archive of New Orleans Jazz. They are shown playing their instruments or relaxing as they talk about their music. The book also features Friedlander's photographs of a funeral march and life on the streets and in the neighborhoods. Teresa Wilhelm Askew wrote in New Orleans magazine that "this effort by Friedlander represents a nearly twenty-year odyssey of love by a great photographer."

Maria is a collection devoted to Friedlander's wife, and Letters from the People is a collection of Friedlander's photographs of writing in public places, including signs, numbers and letters, and graffiti.

Black-and-white photographs of the Sonoran Desert are featured in The Desert Seen, images filled with the thorns and branches of cacti and one self-portrait in which Friedlander's image is obscured by branches. In the book's text he recalls the lush landscape of his native Washington state, compares it to the uninviting desert, and explains why he chose to photograph the latter over ten years.

Lee Friedlander at Work is a collection of photographs taken of people at work over twenty years and reflects the period within which work shifted from industrial to technological labor. After his own retirement from everything but photography at the age of sixty-five, Friedlander focused on landscapes that included cottonwood trees. "It's something I'll probably spend the rest of my life playing with," he told a Photo District News writer. "I don't do lectures, I don't teach, I don't write letters. I just do what I want to do. Don't you think that's fair at sixty-five, to do what you want? It seems to work. People don't badger me about it." Friedlander ended by saying, "photography is the best thing I do. I like working. I like working all the time."



Contemporary Photographers, St. James Press (Detroit, MI), 1996.


Afterimage, January, 1993, Deborah Bright, reviews of Nudes and Maria, pp. 6-9; September-October, 1997, Stephen Longmire, review of The Desert Seen, p. 21.

Los Angeles Times Book Review, December 6, 1992, Fred Schruers, review of The Jazz People of New Orleans, pp. 2, 29.

New Orleans, November, 1992, Teresa Wilhelm Askew, review of The Jazz People of New Orleans, p. 34.

Newsweek, December 7, 1998, Malcolm Jones, Jr., review of American Musicians, p. 76.

New York Review of Books, January 9, 1997, Janet Malcolm, review of Bellocq: Photographs from Storyville, the Red-Light District of New Orleans, pp. 12-16.

Photo District News, January, 2002, "Catching up with …: A Gathering of Master Photographers, All with Gloried Pasts, Examine Their Present Work and What's Still to Come," p. 30.

Times Literary Supplement, July 12, 1991, Brian Case, reviews of Like a One-eyed Cat: Photographs by Lee Friedlander and Nudes, p. 15.


University of Washington Web site, (January 22, 2003), Rod Slemmons, "A Precise Search for the Elusive."*

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Friedlander, Lee (Norman) 1934-

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