Richard Avedon: Lee Friedlander, 2002

Before heading off to work in the mornings lately I've been dipping into a book of Lee Friedlander photographs.  It's a substantial book, several hundred pages long - and almost impossible to hold it is so heavy, it needs a good solid kitchen table to support it. It contains maybe 500 hundred images, maybe more. I'm wondering if he even out-gunned Garry Winogrand in the total frame count stakes.

He has been, and probably remains despite his age, hugely prodigious. For over fifty years he's been compulsively photographing, in ways that are quite idiosyncratic, thoughtful and funny. I'm not sure if what he does has much relevance anymore to cutting edge contemporary photography, it will be regarded as too much about 'just looking'. The end for 'great photographs' has been widely predicted for some time, even by old-schoolers Joel Meyerowitz and Alec Soth amongst others. The simple wonderment at how things translate from the world through a camera onto the picture plane is old news, however well he did it and still does. It's curious though that often his intuitive picture-making strategies accidentally positioned him way into the heartlands of post-modernist photography, too, particularly with the self-portraits, the strange Work portraits and the Monuments series. It's in fact a monumental body of work and a truly unique self-portrait.






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