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Friedlander, Lee

FRIEDLANDER, LEE

FRIEDLANDER, LEE (1934– ), U.S. photographer. Born in Aberdeen, Wash., Friedlander took up photography at 14 and moved to California after graduation from high school. In 1956, he went to New York, where he became friendly with photographers like Robert *Frank, Walker Evans, Diane *Arbus, and Helen Levitt, and where he supported himself by taking pictures of jazz, blues, and gospel performers for various recording companies. He seems to have been greatly influenced by Frank, whose book The Americans, came out in 1958. Like Frank's photographs, Friedlander's were interpreted as a mirror of American society. His images were less emotional, however.

He got his first solo exhibition in the George Eastman House in Rochester, n.y. in 1963. He always worked in series: street images, flowers, trees, nudes, the industrial and postindustrial environment, portraits, and self-portraits. Among the important series he produced in the late 1970s and early 1980s was a reportage of forgotten memorials to events in American history, portraits of North American industrial areas threatened with unemployment, and photographs of computer operators. He thus gave shape to the banality of daily life and recorded the complexity of the American social landscape from a strong appreciation of the importance of formal values. His street scenes appear to be casual but are complicated compositions. The nudes reflect an almost obsessive attempt to capture the naked female body as it really is. He did not use models, but normal, reasonably well-shaped women marked by acne, bruises, fat, etc. He was also considered a master of the frame; his photographs nearly always include more details, telling or not, than the viewer expects. He used a viewfinder 35-millimeter camera and photographed in black and white. He received three Guggenheim fellowships, five grants from the National Endowment for the Arts and was awarded a MacArthur Foundation "genius" grant in 1990. More than a dozen books of his works have been published. He had oneman shows at the Museum of Modern Art in New York in 1972, 1974, and 1991. In 2001 moma acquired more than 1,000 of Friedlander's prints, spanning his entire career from the 1950s to work that had not yet been made public. It was the museum photography department's biggest purchase ever of works by a living artist.

[Stewart Kampel (2nd ed.)]

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