Perhaps the most famous photography exhibition in history took place at MOMA in 1967 featuring the works of Gary Winogrand, Diane Arbus, and Lee Friedlander. It was called New Documents and while much of the publicity and controversy surrounding the exhibit focused on Arbus’s work, the show clearly was announcing that a new aesthetic was forming out of documentary traditions. All three of these photographers are now regarded as 20th century icons.
From Wiki, “Friedlander studied photography at the Art Center College of Design located in Pasadena, California. In 1956, he moved to New York City where he photographed jazz musicians for record covers. His early work was influenced by Eugène Atget, Robert Frank, and Walker Evans. In 1960, the Guggenheim Memorial Foundation awarded Friedlander a grant to focus on his art and made subsequent grants in 1962 and 1977.
Working primarily with Leica 35mm cameras and black and white film, Friedlander’s style focused on the “social landscape”. His art used detached images of urban life, store-front reflections, structures framed by fences, and posters and signs all combining to capture the look of modern life.”
If one thing has been consistent throughout Friedlander’s career it is the presence of the photographer in the image.
But his subject matter has been diverse.
In the 90’s he began using a medium format camera and that project seems to be almost a synthesis of his career.
“The subject itself,” he wrote of landscape, “is simply perfect, and no matter how well you manage as a photographer, you will only ever give a hint as to how good the real thing is. We photographers don’t really make anything: we peck at the world and try to find something curious or wild or beautiful that might fit into what the medium of photography can hold.”
“The photographs of these places,” he added, “are a hint, just a blink at a piece of the real world. At most, an aphrodisiac.”