Discuss a Lee Friedlander photograph

Discussion in 'Discussing a ****** Photograph' started by Artur Zeidler, Aug 13, 2006.

  1. Artur Zeidler

    Artur Zeidler Inactive

    Messages:
    25
    Joined:
    Jul 18, 2006
    Shooter:
    Large Format Pan
    Having been quite pleasantly surprised by some of the photographs in this "discuss a" sub-forum, I wanted to add one of my own:

    [​IMG]

    this is one from Lee Friedlanders book and project Sticks & Stones: Architectural America, which is one of my favourite books of his.

    For me Friedlander is like a free-form jazz player of photography, improvising, breaking the rules, taking off in a new and unexpected direction, but always drawing you along with him and always undisputedly a master of his instrument

    There were some other pictures from the same project I had difficulty chosing from. I may post them a little later
     
  2. Artur Zeidler

    Artur Zeidler Inactive

    Messages:
    25
    Joined:
    Jul 18, 2006
    Shooter:
    Large Format Pan
    here are some of the others I had trouble deciding between (so maybe that's four to discuss?)

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]
     
  3. lee

    lee Member

    Messages:
    2,913
    Joined:
    Nov 23, 2002
    Location:
    Fort Worth T
    Shooter:
    8x10 Format
    I think the bottom two images are really the same. the bottom one just has more info in it.

    lee\c
     
  4. blansky

    blansky Subscriber

    Messages:
    5,985
    Joined:
    Nov 6, 2002
    Location:
    Wine country, N. Cal.
    Shooter:
    Medium Format
    The photographs in themselves aren't overly interesting to me but as a body of work that you've shown he is a master of creating tension.


    Michael
     
  5. jovo

    jovo Membership Council Council

    Messages:
    4,124
    Joined:
    Feb 8, 2004
    Location:
    Jacksonville
    Shooter:
    Multi Format
    Two are rather static, and I have no idea what they are about. But the OP and the third post have pulse. I'm no fan of Friedlander in general, but sometimes there's a goodie!
     
  6. Claire Senft

    Claire Senft Member

    Messages:
    3,242
    Joined:
    Dec 7, 2004
    Location:
    Milwaukee, W
    Shooter:
    35mm
    I dislike all 4 photos.
     
  7. magic823

    magic823 Member

    Messages:
    460
    Joined:
    Apr 1, 2003
    Location:
    Boise, ID
    Shooter:
    Multi Format
    The first one kinda interesting, but the rest are meh. The third one is too flat and they all but the first one I don't think are composed well. (To me they look like what I would expect from a basic photography class.)

    Steve
     
  8. Sparky

    Sparky Member

    Messages:
    2,099
    Joined:
    Jun 19, 2005
    Location:
    Los Angeles
    Shooter:
    Multi Format
    Can we raise the bar on the level of critique in here - ? Or is this sort of typical? (no offense intended - but I'm not sure how you can really learn anything with 'i like' and 'i don't like'). Perhaps a statement BY Friedlander ABOUT his work might be somewhat in order - so that we can approach the work in a way that doesn't come from our own egos...? Does that sound reasonable? Or should I just piss off?

    (just trying to make things a bit more interesting here!)
     
  9. Gay Larson

    Gay Larson Member

    Messages:
    1,209
    Joined:
    Dec 22, 2004
    Location:
    Oklahoma
    Shooter:
    Medium Format
    I don't really care what he has to say about his work. They don't have any appeal for me. They don't speak to me at all. I can see this kind of photograph in albums across america.
     
  10. Sparky

    Sparky Member

    Messages:
    2,099
    Joined:
    Jun 19, 2005
    Location:
    Los Angeles
    Shooter:
    Multi Format
    With all due respect, Gay. I doubt you'd see photos like this in albums. But I can understand how they might look that way on the very surface.

    In my experience - it can be difficult, if not impossible, to know how to respond to a photograph without understanding the intent of the artist. This might not be true with many 'modernist' works which are more about simple composition, design and surface characteristics.
     
  11. David Brown

    David Brown Subscriber

    Messages:
    3,595
    Joined:
    Feb 16, 2004
    Location:
    DFW, Texas
    Shooter:
    Multi Format
    In my experience, it is not that difficult, and entirely possible to know how to respond to a photograph without understanding the intent of the artist.

    That being said, I saw Friedlander's show last year in Chicago and liked it. However, I reserve the right to not like something without being told I don't understand it. For one thing, it's an assumption that may not be true. Perhaps one does know the artist's intent, and still doesn't like it.

    With all due respect ...
     
  12. tim atherton

    tim atherton Inactive

    Messages:
    552
    Joined:
    Sep 19, 2002
  13. Sparky

    Sparky Member

    Messages:
    2,099
    Joined:
    Jun 19, 2005
    Location:
    Los Angeles
    Shooter:
    Multi Format
    So - for example - if we speak of a Friedlander photo of this era - I think that the following aspects are noteworthy;

    1. The tension between the deliberately 'casual' aspects of his composition with the FORCING of a casual aesthetic. I'm not sure (I doubt) this is the same sort of tension that Blansky refers to. Regardless, I think it's a safe bet to say that he's EXTREMELY concerned with composition.

    2. The way that, in confronting the Banal (note capital B), there are two things going on. One is that the mind tends to treat the image more plastically - that is to say, we pay more attention to composition and other surface characteristics. The second thing that happens is we enter into a social critique of america, in terms of the alienating/alienated world that Friedlander represents.

    3. It is important to consider in his use of depth-of-field a certain 'suspension of disbelief'. That is to say, the great depth of field combines with the 'casual' framing and allows one to actually inhabit the scene portrayed in a way that shallow depth of field would force us to consider the work as a graphic entity.

    4. I find the way that Friedlander populates his scenes interesting. He's not at all afraid of portraying people - but I don't think it's ABOUT the people. The empty scenes seem especially conspicuously absent - and the people who DO appear in his photos don't have the same sort of presence/personality they might in a Winogrand photo, say.

    Any responses to this?
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Mar 31, 2007
  14. Sponsored Ad
  15. Sparky

    Sparky Member

    Messages:
    2,099
    Joined:
    Jun 19, 2005
    Location:
    Los Angeles
    Shooter:
    Multi Format
    And that would be FINE - as long as you acknowledge that's pretty much defining willful ignorance. There are LOTS of times I'd resolved to not like a particular image or artist... and then I'd found out something about the image or body of work in question which made it seem FAR more interesting. Which gave it a depth I hadn't even consdidered. Take Jeff Wall's work maybe. Or Andre Serrano. The truth was - I was simply looking at the work through a certain filter that made things unchallenging and easy for me (an example: "does this look like an ansel adams photo?" if yes, then I like it - if no, then I don't). But the one thing I think that's VERY important in learning to be a photographer, an artist, a visual person, what-have-you... is to learn FIRST to step outside of your little box, your preconceived notions. I don't think it's possible to pass judgement on ANYTHING until you understand it. "Don't judge a man until you've walked a mile in his shoes", right?
     
  16. blansky

    blansky Subscriber

    Messages:
    5,985
    Joined:
    Nov 6, 2002
    Location:
    Wine country, N. Cal.
    Shooter:
    Medium Format
    But we aren't judging the man. Only the work.

    I'm not sure that any good work of art needs context to be "legitimate". I'm kind of torn on that issue.

    If the picture can't stand on its own, should then a context or explanation be something that elevates it to something else.

    Someone is these last few days made the comment about Migrant Mother that without the context this would just be another photo. But is not the desperation, and beaten down expression on her face, plainly there, even without the background knowledge?

    I think it is. And this elevates it above a picture that needs explanation.


    Michael
     
  17. Sparky

    Sparky Member

    Messages:
    2,099
    Joined:
    Jun 19, 2005
    Location:
    Los Angeles
    Shooter:
    Multi Format
    Sure - I agree fully. BUT! The knowing the context and something about the Dust Bowl and the FSA and Lange (that WAS Lange, right? Or am I spacing out?) sure adds another whole dimension to the photo, don't you think?

    That IS a good point though, B. I think that there is a tacit assumption of the author in every judgement of a photograph. That is to say, if someone sees what they consider a schlocky photo by Person X, then they'll try to generalize about Person X. If they see eight bad and one good, then they'll have a slightly different assumption. But that's just human nature, right? Generalization is a compression scheme we use to store information. Compression tends to be more efficient than accurate.
     
  18. blansky

    blansky Subscriber

    Messages:
    5,985
    Joined:
    Nov 6, 2002
    Location:
    Wine country, N. Cal.
    Shooter:
    Medium Format
    I think it might add an "interest" but I think the picture needs to stand alone first.

    Actually the more I think of it, I DON'T think it needs the Dustbowl context. It has power and grace on its own.

    If it needs the context to "exist" then I think it has failed to some extent.


    Michael
     
  19. Gay Larson

    Gay Larson Member

    Messages:
    1,209
    Joined:
    Dec 22, 2004
    Location:
    Oklahoma
    Shooter:
    Medium Format
    Michael[/QUOTE]
     
  20. Sparky

    Sparky Member

    Messages:
    2,099
    Joined:
    Jun 19, 2005
    Location:
    Los Angeles
    Shooter:
    Multi Format
    I think there IS some truth to this statement - but I also think that people tend not to understand the way in which they are constantly being given context for things. Perhaps you're just starting to get interested in photography - and you hear about this cat "ansel adams" and "how great he is"... "a true master". Well, I think you're probably going to bring a whole different set of assumptions to looking at an adams photo with this in mind rather than not. Not only that - but I think that people probably have a whole lot more reverence and reserving of opinion towards images that are constantly foisted on us by what we perceive to be 'authority' than not. There are millions of ways in which we're constantly being 'trained', not just towards visual images, but towards EVERYTHING in our lives. I think that starting to be aware of this fact will make you a far better photographer, among other things.
     
  21. Gay Larson

    Gay Larson Member

    Messages:
    1,209
    Joined:
    Dec 22, 2004
    Location:
    Oklahoma
    Shooter:
    Medium Format
    I don't know why I'm having trouble replying but what I wrote is in the box that should only contain what Blansky wrote. I was replying to his post. This has never happened before??? I had to write it three times before it even posted at all?
     
  22. Sparky

    Sparky Member

    Messages:
    2,099
    Joined:
    Jun 19, 2005
    Location:
    Los Angeles
    Shooter:
    Multi Format
    Gay - you just wrote your piece before then end of Blansky's quote. That's all. It's there. Just italicized. It's all good.
     
  23. Michel Hardy-Vallée

    Michel Hardy-Vallée Membership Council Council

    Messages:
    4,351
    Joined:
    Apr 2, 2005
    Location:
    Montréal (QC
    Shooter:
    Multi Format
    The critical issues here remind me of the ones around the recent Eggleston photo. On its own, the photo can be a meh, and I would say the second one posted here is a big meh, unless it is seen in a group with the other ones.

    To make a music analogy, some photos are chorus and will stick in your mind in a loop, but others are verse. I'm not terribly into photographic serialism because often the series themselves are boring, but the juxtaposition of the Friedlander photos here show that his vision is coherent between the photos, and the common element ("tension") structures them all.
     
  24. blansky

    blansky Subscriber

    Messages:
    5,985
    Joined:
    Nov 6, 2002
    Location:
    Wine country, N. Cal.
    Shooter:
    Medium Format
    But by constantly have things jammed down our throats, I think that people actually become cynical and rebellious against what is "good". Your exampe of AA is true, in that a lot of people revere him but almost anybody old enough to form opinions these days, will quickly made a judgement pro or con about not his work, but a given picture.

    I don't think we should judge anybody's body of work per se. We should judge a given picture. Just because he's AA, doesn't mean he walks on water. There should be no free passes. Either it can stand alone or not.

    If I were an "artist" I wouldn't want my pictures in any type of grouping. Not in a book or a gallery. It lessens the impact of any given picture. Granted there is commerce involved. But I would want every picture to be it's own experience and not something to be compared to something else.

    Michael
     
  25. Gay Larson

    Gay Larson Member

    Messages:
    1,209
    Joined:
    Dec 22, 2004
    Location:
    Oklahoma
    Shooter:
    Medium Format
    I wrote it like this one. so I'm going to see if it happens again. Thanks (now I see I wrote it before his name which was the finish. Sorry)
     
  26. blansky

    blansky Subscriber

    Messages:
    5,985
    Joined:
    Nov 6, 2002
    Location:
    Wine country, N. Cal.
    Shooter:
    Medium Format
    Those things happen a lot to people who agree with me.

    Something in the software I guess?????

    Michael