« Matt Carlson's Gallery Visit | Main | Sam Fuentes - Gallery Visit »

Emily Kippels - Lee Friedlander

On Saturday, September 13th I went to see the Lee Friedlander photography exhibition at the Minneapolis Institute of Arts. It was a collection of Friedlander’s personal work outside of his career as a jazz musician photographer. In the entrance you were greeted with stunning color photographs of the faces of these musicians, some taken from strange and unflattering perspectives. However, the vast majority of his photographs, over 500 in total, were taken with a 35mm camera and black and white film to capture what was described as “the American social landscape.?

Throughout Friedlander’s work, there are themes of Americanism and the mundane, and the shifting, intimate, behind-the-scenes perspective. My first impression of his collection was that many of the images seemed accidental. Some were taken from strange angles, or captured the backs of heads. Some of his images seemed sloppy and unprofessional, like the self-portraits he took in bed, or the reflections of himself in store windows.

Friedlander does an excellent job of capturing experience in the way that you would see them in person, which gives them a special advantage in connecting with the viewer. His images capture fleeting moments and often evoke stronger emotion than a posed portrait would have. Friedlander clearly enjoys capturing people in their own environment as was displayed in his images of people working at the office in their desks. There is a humor in these photographs, which is expressed through the awkward and intrusive positioning of the camera. His humor is also reflected in his self-portraits, all of which are unflattering and messy. One of my favorite images of his is titled “California?, taken in 1997, and one of his many self-portraits. The photograph was intentionally taken with bush branches between the camera and himself. His photographs don’t seem to relay a specific message, only to capture spontaneous moments and to make images from strange angles and perspectives to create more inventive, imaginative photographs.

California - Lee Friedlander.jpg
Title: California
Work Date: 1997
Medium: gelatin silver print

Seeing this exhibit gave me valuable insight into the real-life production of a working photographer, and motivated me to get out there and start taking some pictures. All too often I am frustrated by my desire for perfectly composed pictures, and Friedlander’s collection has given me the confidence to take more spontaneous and playful photographs. I would definitely recommend his exhibition to a friend.