Daily Picture Show

Lee Friedlander Goes To Yale

Rearview mirrors, billboards, motel televisions – odd juxtapositions and humorous candids. This sort of American vernacular typifies Lee Friedlander’s portfolio. He began photographing in the 1950s, rose to prominence in the '60s, and today, at age 76, he is still “very very active,” says Joshua Chuang, assistant curator of photographs at the Yale University Art Gallery.

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“I once asked him,” Chuang said over the phone, “how long he’s ever gone without putting a roll of film through his camera. And he said … three months — which was about 10 or 15 years ago, when he had both of his knees replaced. But besides that, he photographs just about every day.”

So you can imagine the number of photographs Friedlander has taken in his life. Or maybe you can't. It's a lot. That’s why Yale is eager to start archiving.

A few days ago, the university announced the acquisition of the Lee Friedlander Archive in a news release: "2,000 of the photographer’s master prints as well as negatives, working prints, letters, books and other articles cataloging his creative process and output." That’s a pretty big deal. Through this joint acquisition between the Yale's art gallery and its Beineke Rare Book and Manuscript Library, Yale's has become the largest holder of Friedlander’s work.

What’s interesting is that Yale isn’t focusing on the era for which Friedlander is most famous, i.e., the '60s and '70s. “We thought it might be interesting,” Chuang explained, “to distinguish our collection of Friedlander’s work by concentrating on the last two decades, when he switched to a different camera — a Hasselblad Superwide.”

Although Friedlander’s style, tone and subject matter may have evolved over the decades, one thing hasn’t changed: The man is one of this country’s masters of photography – and Yale is lucky to have his work.

Learn more about Friedlander's influence and legacy — which includes a seminal 1967 exhibition, more 30 books and a MacArthur Fellowship — in this slideshow at Fraenkel Gallery.

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