Friday, 9 March 2012

Lee Friedlander- Self Portraits (inside, outside)

The series of vintage photographs taken by Friedlander in the 1960s and published in Self Portrait is widely considered to be his best work. The artist appears in the composition of all these photographs. In some he is seen reflected in mirrors and windows, while in others his shadow is projected, for example, onto the back of a woman in the street or truncated on a chair in a shop window where it joins the reflection of his feet. In others Friedlander angles the camera to include his feet or turns it back on himself from arm's length. Friedlander is pushing the boundaries of self portraits and the street genre.

Friedlander once called his subject "the American social landscape", a place that, in his pictures, comes across as both everyday and oddly chaotic. Sometimes, as with the series in which his own reflection is caught in shop windows, or his shadow on pavements and walls, he seemed to be playing with, or sending up, the conventions of "good photography". Likewise, when he employs strange angles or shoots through windscreens or uses car mirrors to frame a photograph within a photograph, all of which can disorientate the viewer.
At other times, when he turned his attention to, say, public monuments and statues, he captured a makeshift America that was so ordinary as to be drab. There is humour aplenty in his photographs, but it is knowing, at times almost cynical. One of his most famous photographs is of his own shadow falling on the back of a blonde woman in a fur coat, an image that says much about the often predatory nature of street photography. It is, I guess, a self-portrait of a kind, albeit a metaphorical one.
The interesting aspect of looking back at his work in todays cultural environment is it is all about the self. Even when documenting locations or monuments the self is always in consideration. This reflects the demise of community and togetherness and the selfish motives of modern day life.

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