Perhaps the greatest thing when looking at the masters of Street Photography, besides the work itself, is what I call the “chain”. After only being a student of street for a year, each master discovered is new and fresh to me. The research of that master then begets research into another. Whether that next master is an influence of, an influence on our a contemporary of… each great is a link in the “chain” of discovery. No one great is the end all. Each is a stepping stone to another.
I’ve come across Lee Friedlander’s name numerous times in my journey, but never took the step in his direction. Why? Ignorance, really. His name was always referenced, especially when digging into Winogrand, Meyerowitz and Arbus, but it wasn’t as “talked about” as the other big names in street. Dare I say not as revered? Granted, Friedlander is still living, and his name is not hallowed. Do a search of Friedlander and you’ll understand what I mean. Critics and “experts” praise him, but his name doesn’t seem to have the marquee power of Cartier-Bresson, Parr, Winogrand, Arbus, etc. Why? I don’t know. But, after diving into his work, I can tell you that it’s a crime that it does not.
Lee Friedlander (born 1934) is about to turn 80 and his body of work is simply massive. Friedlander moved to New York in 1956 and made a living photographing jazz musicians for record covers. After that he freelanced for magazines like Sports Illustrated, Esquire and Art In America. In 1967, he was featured in the monumental New Documents exhibition at the Museum Of Modern Art along with Garry Winogrand and Diane Arbus. In New York he kept company with other greats like Robert Frank, Helen Levitt, Richard Avedon. In the 1960’s, Friedlander’s name was synonymous with Street Photography. It’s been written that he showed us the true “social landscape” of that time.