Lee Friedlander is an American photographer with a fascination on the street photography. He works primarily with his Leica 35 mm camera and black and white film. Friedlander photography style is considered as “social landscape photography” because of his prominent street photos focusing on the look of the modern life. Friedlander focused to photograph his surrounding with unique perspective. He doesn’t stick to any convention in taking photograph. He wonders around and pursued different types of photography.
Friedlander pioneers the new visualization perspective of street photography. Throughout his career, he captures images from his surrounding with unique approaches. Rather than documenting straight and clear-cut photograph, he intentionally juxtaposes layers of weird perspective and creates confusion to deliver the story. Friedlander uses the strategy to show something that the viewer can’t immediately comprehend to captivate their interest in the photograph. Visual complexity, unfamiliar perspective and abstraction become the major role in Friedlander’s style of street photography.
Friedlander fascination with photography began when he started to take photograph of Jazz musician. He started his photography career by shooting freelance photography of Jazz musician and featured on many covers for Atlantic Records. During this period, Friedlander was interested in taking alot of portrait photograph and behind the scene photos. Joel Dorn, a producer of Atlantic Record, suggests that Friedlander photographs show “how the people were when they weren’t being who they were”.
“It fascinates me that there is a variety of feeling about what I do. I’m not a premeditative photographer. I see a picture and I make it. If I had a chance, I’d be out shooting all the time. You don’t have to go looking for pictures. The material is generous. You go out and the pictures are staring at you”. Lee Friedlander
The quote best describes Friedlander’s position in how he pursues his own photography style. Friedlander was started off by going to the Art Center School Design in Los Angeles to chase his interest in photography. But he dropped out of the school because he considered the formal education in the institution is boring. Thus, He happened to self-taught himself in photography and started to capture as much picture of his surrounding. During his self-educated process, Friedlander encompassed directions from learning through Evans and Atget works. He also got help and source of mentorship from Edward Kaminski, a photographer and an artist from his previous formal school instructor.
“(..) a mysterious intersection of chance and attention that goes well beyond the existential surrealism of the "decisive moment" Lee Friedlander
One of Friedlander’s photography characteristics is his fascination in reflection. He likes capturing picture of people reflecting through storefront window, taking picture of store mannequin, or even his own shadow reflection for his self-portrait project. The reflection through the storefront window gives the sense of abstraction and perplexity into the image. It also delivers complexity through adding more content into the photograph. Thus it takes time to the viewer to wander around and digest the picture itself. All of his photographs have no technical manipulation involved. Friedlander’s reflecting photographs are straight photograph from the material that we encounter everyday. However, he invites the viewer to experience the everyday image that he captured through his lens in a provoking yet eccentric perspective. Friedlander’s picture of reflection evokes ambiguity between actual reality and reflected image. Thus it requires a through inspection to really understand the meaning behind the photograph.
Friedlander also enriched his social landscape photography by having multiple frames and layers from the content he documented. He intentionally categorizes the content inside the image by creating multiple frames in it. The photograph he took in Chicago, Illinois in 2003 seems like a flat image of multiple frames in it. all the vertical elements are parallel and. He parallelizes the street light pole on the foreground with the Marina City on the background. He activates the vertical elements to frame the focus in the photograph. The vertical element seems to bring a sense of unity into the picture. It is a really weird perspective that confuses its viewer. But on the other hand, it also creates a logical sense to deliver his perspective of the city. The perspective shows how Friedlander approach to relate order in the chaotic city into his photography. Thus it creates the complexity into the image and allows the viewer to investigate the picture to fully understand the story behind the image.
In contrast to the photograph above, Friedlander’s work, The Desert Seen, seems to symbolize beauty through chaos. His main subject on this book is plant, and most of them are cactus. Friedlander captures the cactus from the point it burst out and reconfigure the surrounding. He tries to describe chaos in form of inherent beauty. The picture shows a chaotic branch of tree uncontrollably extended outward and create the sense of abstraction. The Dessert Seen collection also gives the sense of complexity in its content as to allow eyes to wonder around the picture.
The visual confusion created by Friedlander makes his photographs more interesting. It delivers as a piece of art that reflects human experience. Friedlander photographs intrigues the assimilation of what we see and our ability to comprehend.