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Buffalo, New York

  • Object:

    Photograph

  • Place of origin:

    Buffalo (photographed)

  • Date:

    1962 (photographed)

  • Artist/Maker:

    Friedlander, Lee, born 1934 (photographer)

  • Materials and Techniques:

    Gelatin silver print

  • Museum number:

    PH.773-1980

  • Gallery location:

    Prints & Drawings Study Room, level F, case X, shelf 934, box A

Lee Friedlander was one of the new documentary photographers of the 1960s. Like a jazz musician, he anchored his improvisations to a repeated theme. His street photographs are often deliberately unreadable, refracted or reflected in mirrors or windows. This image is one of a series of self-portraits in which his camera becomes part of his silhouette. He has implicated the viewer in the picture by placing us in the position of the photographer, standing where the artist once stood. The image collapses the distance between interior and exterior, reflection and surface. In this way Friedlander broke the conventional rules of photography to revitalise the medium.

Physical description

Black and white photograph through a glass shop window. There is a reflection of the street scene outside in the window, and the contents of the widow is clearly visible; numerous photographs and postcards depicting portraits of people and lettered signs spelling out words such as 'PASSPORTS'. There is a glare of light in the top centre of the photograph from the lightbulb inside the shop.

Place of Origin

Buffalo (photographed)

Date

1962 (photographed)

Artist/maker

Friedlander, Lee, born 1934 (photographer)

Materials and Techniques

Gelatin silver print

Dimensions

Width: 29.2 cm image, Height: 19.7 cm image, Width: 36.2 cm sheet, Height: 28.8 cm sheet

Descriptive line

Photograph by Lee Friedlander, 'Buffalo, New York', 1962, gelatin silver print

Labels and date

Lee Friedlander (born 1934)
New Orleans, Louisiana, 1968
Buffalo, New York, 1962

Friedlander has been making self-portraits for
over 50 years. In each of these examples, he
appears as a reflection in the centre of a carefully
framed depiction of an American cityscape. His
camera merges with his body, which in turn is
surrounded by a complex arrangement of urban
forms and textures.

Gelatin silver prints
Given by the Gordon Fraser Charitable Trust
Museum nos. PH.775-1980, 773-1980 [23/7/2016-5/3/2017]
V&A general Friedlander label text, from pre-2000:

Cases 16- 20

Lee Friedlander

In the summer of last year the Institute of Contempo-rary Arts showed an excellent retrospective exhibition of the American photographer Lee Friedlander. It was handsomely welcomed by national art critics but was on for a brief period and may not have been widely seen. A selection of the Museum’s Fried-lander collection, built up by generous benefactors, is shown here.

Friedlander’s work as a photographer touches on many of the themes of Towards a Bigger Picture – and by extension the preoccupations of artists today. He has acted as a printer from the glass negatives of the Storyville portraitist E. J. Bellocq, whose work he rediscovered and reprinted using traditional printing paper of the period. He has produced a whole series in which he, as the photographer-observer, is included within the image. He has studied the possibilities of the ‘vernacular’ snapshot and adopted some of its seren-dipities into his technique. He is a sharp-eyed reporter on the iconography of gender. Another series explores the way the American monument looks as an aspect of the American scene. He has produced the lightest commentaries on weighty abstractions such as ‘nature and Culture’. Consumerism- including television and the point of sale- have attracted some of his barbs; he has represented individuals deafened by the noise of urban sign language- and artists among his friends at their most singular and impressive. More than any other photographer, Friedlander anticipates the concerns of the 1980s- in which he is, himself, continuing to make a contribution.

Presumably Friedlander’s work benefitted considerably from his contemporaries Diane Arbus and Garry Winogrand- they showed together in New Documents (Museum of Modern Art, New York, 1967)- but he has recognisable ancestry in Eugene Atget, Walker Evans and Robert Frank. On this point see Peter Turner in the V & A’s Personal Choice: A Celebra-tion of 20th Century Photographs (1983). A special edition of Lee Friedlander: Photo-graphs (New City, N.Y. 1978) can be seen in the Museum Library. []

Materials

Photographic paper

Techniques

Gelatin silver process

Subjects depicted

Shop; Reflection; Storefront

Categories

Photographs

Collection

Prints, Drawings & Paintings Collection

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