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Lee Friedlander makes my list of photographers worth paying attention to, even though his photographs are completely different than the others on the list.

Lee Friedlander, Lee Avenue, Butte, Montana, 1970

Lee Friedlander, Lee Avenue, Butte, Montana, 1970

Many of Friedlander’s photographs are of scenes so banal that it seems impossible that anyone could make a photograph that could possibly hold our interest, but somehow he succeeds.  Many of the pictures are visual jokes, like the picture above, a self-deprecating play on his own name, can one imagine a worse street to live on?  He has published something on the order of 50 books, many of them self published, but a key to his work is in “American Musicians”, published in 1998, of work mostly done in the 1950s and 60s, photographs of musicians for album jackets, including many jazz greats, including some of my favorites,  Miles Davis and Stan Getz.  I think of a comment that a critic made about Stan Getz–“he blew smoke rings around god”–all those wonderful notes  in the smokey air–and it seems to me that Friedlander is doing the same thing in his photographs–they are jazz, full of phrases verging on chaos, but always somehow coming together, resolving perfectly, the band sharing a laugh at the end of the song.  I own many of Friedlander’s books (the ones I can afford), my favorites include “Letters from the People“, (amazingly still in print), the MOMA book (just out in paperback, cheap), and “Nudes” (astonishing mostly because the bodies actually look real…)

Lee Friedlander, Lake Louise, 2000

Lee Friedlander, Lake Louise, 2000

Friedlander has taken on a wide variety of subjects, and he has taken on the western landscape–Jeffery Fraenkel called the results “Ansel Adams on crack”.  And he did visit Alaska, with two images in his “Portraits”  book.

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