Lee Friedlander

‘They began as straight portraits but soon I was finding myself at times in the landscape of my photography. I might call myself an intruder’. These are the words that Lee Friedlander used to describe his photographic work in 1965 and 1966, during a flurry of artistic activity that bordered on the febrile, in which he made himself the actor in his pictures. Friedlander’s Self-Portraits, as he called these photographs, must have seemed like photographic accidents to the people viewing them at the time, with the artist’s own shadow or reflection integrated into the hectic urban landscape. The complex structure of Friedlander’s images makes him into an anonymous figure, an analogue for modern society. A large part of his work was produced on the road, on his numerous journeys between the cities of the US. However, the same (self-)irony and laconicism can also be found in shots showing moments of rest and calm, as exemplified by two of the photographs in the exhibition. In one, Friedlander sits collapsed in his motel room, as if he had been photographed from the perspective of his television. In another, the photographer— grinning broadly—faces his own camera. The shot equates to what we would now call a selfie. In 1970, Friedlander’s Self-Portraits were published as a book by the Museum of Modern Art in New York and are today considered classic works of portrait photography.