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Lee Friedlander

At Work and Sticks & Stones

Museum of Contemporary Photography
March 12-May 14, 2005

Additional Resources
for Viewers and Educators

Museum of Contemporary Photography
Columbia College Chicago
600 S. Michigan Ave.
Chicago IL, 60605

To schedule an exhibition tour, please call (312) 344-7793.

Page 5-7 Lee Friedlander At Work. Page 12-14 Lee Friedlander: An Abbreviated Timeline. 2 . Introductory essay by Rod Slemmons. Page 8-11 Lee Friedlander: Questions for Looking and Discussion.Lee Friedlander: At Work and Sticks & Stones Additional Resources for Viewers and Educators The Museum of Contemporary Photography Columbia College Chicago Contents: Page 3-4 Just Look At It.

and discovered that photography is better at identifying changes in the self attached to the finger on the shutter than recording transformation of the society at large. if you don’t figure it out for yourself you will quickly forget what you discover and it won’t be of any use to you.” Lee generally says something like this when asked how his photographs work or why he made them. Washington in 1934. He and Maria DiPaoli were married in 1958 and moved to a small town on the Hudson River where they live today. even superficially as his shadow or reflection in the image. this process threatens our possession of our own vision. He marches straight into the heart of 3 . Friedlander and his new friends. is based on this discovery and contains the seeds of almost all of his later work both formally and in the sense that we never lose sight of Lee Friedlander as the point of view. from a previous generation. He began photographing in 1948 because of a “fascination with the equipment. Since Self Portrait. it loses its informative opacity. he recorded his own reactions to change. matching the sequential journey through a book with his own internal ordering of how he sees with the camera. Louis Faurer. In 1956 he moved to New York and began freelancing. when asked to help fix or explain a problem on the farm where he grew up. He sought magazine assignments and eventually met people in New York who would change his life: Robert Frank. And second. And because photographs look so much like seeing. It is our business what we do with it. Helen Levitt. It could be said that Lee Friedlander has made a lifelong job of trying to reverse this phenomenon. Ultimately. Strangely. It has become increasingly difficult to see photographs as the visible world has been almost completely plastered over with lenticular representations of itself.Just Look At It Lee Friedlander was born in the logging mill town of Aberdeen. Walker Evans. American culture and society changed radically as Friedlander began his career—the Civil Rights Movement. Because of his love of jazz he found work producing album covers. His first paid job was a Christmas card photograph of a dog for a local madam named Peggy Plus. and. would always respond. it disappears—or perhaps more accurately. however. Self Portrait: Photographs by Lee Friedlander. Richard Avedon. changed the course of American photography in the 1960s and 70s. He preferred. the Vietnam War. This is what he sees based on his own wry humor and complex sense of order. political assassinations. 1970. His first book. don’t use somebody else’s way of looking or you won’t see anything. but left almost immediately. to try to understand this time by looking to the side of the causal action or purposefully away from it--ongoing life in the street. tangential evidence of change. the Hippies. Garry Winogrand. And he means it in the same spirit. as the photograph becomes the world. First.” in his words. To the close observer. along with innovative curators like John Szarkowski and Nathan Lyons. Diane Arbus. Haywire Press. “Just look at it. Friedlander even builds in safeguards to keep his audience from seeing his way. he has published fifteen books. A friend likes to tell how his father. and with great honesty. He later attended the Art Center School in Los Angeles to become a professional photographer.

published as a catalog by D. Museum of Contemporary Photography 4 . however. and to read in multiple. As a mature artist—he considers Sticks and Stones his best book so far—he has transformed this childhood game into picture building skills that function on the level of metaphor. he said. It is tempting to wonder how many intrusive exposures it took before these people dropped their guard and returned to the alert. When asked early on what the Sticks and Stones project was about. He recently commented that as a child he was fond of moving around quietly and “lining things up” with his eyes.. It is often politically expedient to keep the American worker tied up in abstract rhetoric so unless there is a big industrial accident covered by the media. allowing him and us to connect sight and understanding—to both see and see through. is a compilation of six commissioned projects that required Friedlander to photograph in a variety of work places.A. Another strategy Friedlander has employed over the years involves a surprisingly small but sharp set of formal tools used in a wide array of combinations.P.” The whole project has its own architecture. and forces it to give us back the use of our eyes. scrims of fences or branches that we must look through as well as at. and found text that causes the viewer’s mind to shift gears. more controlled way than we are used to in advertising or journalism—unexpected juxtapositions. The last section of the book. to explore on our own. we rarely get to see what other people’s work places look like. transparencies. Director. Some of the images are organized into categories. His most recent project. contains photographs that don’t fit elsewhere. especially of foreground and background elements. Zen-like state of labor developed long ago to transcend poisonous repetition. or perhaps dared. in 2002. Most are ways of animating the flat photographic image by building overlapping layers—reflections.A. One way he has accomplished this is to take the camera (he refers to this as “walking his camera”) where it wouldn’t normally go. as well as image making tools. We find ourselves wondering where the surface of the print is in relation to the information in it. Friedlander went to these places—from small manufacturing shops to a super- computer assembly plant—with no agenda but his own. using its own weapons against it. and Fraenkel Gallery. grabs photography by the throat. published in 2004 as Sticks and Stones: Architectural America by D.enemy territory. Often these single images are the beginning of alleys alongside the larger structures that we are invited. A tension builds up between our curiosity about what these places look like and Friedlander’s invention of ways to look at it. “architecture. common arenas of observation. Other strategies cause the image to release its information in a slower. architecture of the picture. not looking to make pictures of interesting things but to make interesting pictures of what was there. New York.P. The At Work exhibition. Rod Slemmons. In the book these are separated by images containing cars—similar to Robert Frank’s punctuation of The Americans with images of American flags. or maybe more accurately. often conflicting ways. is a definitive set of instructions for the use of these tools.

Lee Friedlander At Work explores the saga of the American worker through six photographic series that were commissioned by museum curators. who help make this recent and explosive sales phenomenon possible. Telemarketing (1995) scrutinizes workers based in Omaha. Cray (1986) is the visual story of this Wisconsin-based maker of super computers Gund (1995) depicts Cleveland’s steel industry. humdrum. for the past five decades. Boston’s outer loop. trucks and trains. is arriving. Factory Valleys (1979—80) features images of heavy and light industry located in northeast Ohio and Pennsylvania. roads. The new age of service and persuasion. yet overriding role of work in America. Friedlander’s practiced eye sees glimpses of the future read in patterns of the present. one of the foremost photographers of the twentieth and twenty-first centuries. of urban landscapes and deserts. MIT (1985—86) records the dramatic shift in the technological landscape along Route 128. Yet—--despite the youth of some workers—there is a sense of passing time and fading promise that recurs in the pictures…. Here. is known for his keen depictions of the worlds of jazz. As Richard Benson. magazine editors. Friedlander has acknowledged the largely anonymous worker. has been inexhaustibly chronicling the American social and cultural landscape. himself an accomplished photographer and master printer as well as Yale University dean. and of family. as the old human work of making physical objects becomes obsolete. observes: Factories full of people and gear working together. foundations. Dreyfus (1992) is a composite portrait of that corporation’s New York City trading floor. Lee Friedlander’s At Work not only witnesses the radical change in the American 5 . and businesses. who. And throughout his prolific career. Friedlander.When I turned sixty-five I retired from everything but work. Nebraska. So quipped Lee Friedlander. of television. making inventive pictures of the familiar. restaurants and rooming houses permeate his pictures. of selling ideas and promises rather than nuts and bolts.

I photographed in several of the cities in this part of the Industrial North. FACTORY VALLEYS Ohio/Pennsylvania. where. but also invites us to appreciate Friedlander‘s profound contribution to photography through one constant thread. All works are gelatin silver prints. The work was printed in a catalogue called “Three on Technology. The subjects are people at work in heavy and light industry. The commission was the idea of Howard Stein. and Paris. San Francisco. GUND Cleveland.” I chose to photograph people working at computers as these ubiquitous machines seemed to be the vehicle for that change. and Katy Kline. Wisconsin. 1985-1986 The working project was named “Changing Technology. and the prints were exhibited at the company’s corporate headquarters. The project was commissioned by the Akron Art Institute whose director at the time was John Coplans. Chippewa Falls. Amsterdam. They are using their human skills in traditional ways to make products and to give services that we all depend on. 1986 When these pictures were made. 6 . with hands and machines. The idea and the commission came from John Rollwagon. Prior to its presentation here. MIT Boston and vicinity. The pictures were made in the environs of Route 128. made in Cleveland fifteen years after Factory Valleys. which at the time was considered a northeastern Silicon Valley. the ubiquitous universe of work. Ohio. I was commissioned to do a book on Cray and its hometown of Chippewa Falls. The project was called Factory Valleys. the Cray Company was the worlds leading manufacturer of super-computers. on loan from the artist courtesy of Fraenkel Gallery. CRAY Cray. 1995 These pictures. The project was commissioned by Mark Schwartz of Nasnadny-Schwartz for the Gund Foundation annual report. a loop road around Boston. The book was privately printed as a gift for all Cray employees. 1970-1980 Over a period of about two years.” and was commissioned and produced by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology Museum under the administration of Kathy Halbreich. Lee Friedlander’s At Work was on view in three major European venues in Cologne. Gary Garrels. on the occasion of the fifteenth anniversary of the company’s founding. DREYFUS New York City.workplace from blue collar to desktop. then CEO of the Dreyfus Corporation. the company’s CEO at the time. 1992 I made these pictures on the trading floor and in the offices of the Dreyfus Corporation in New York City. are also about people at work. they are making things that we all use.

The assignment came from and was directed by Kathy Ryan. -Lee Friedlander 7 . Nebraska. Nebraska. to photograph people working at telemarketing in several companies based there. 1995 An assignment for The New York Times Magazine led me to Omaha. the photo editor at the magazine.TELEMARKETING Omaho.

lighting. Ohio. The following discussion questions will help viewers consider the construction and possible meanings of Friedlander’s At Work series. foundations. Lee Friedlander: At Work Questions for Looking and Discussion For over 16 years (1979-1995) for a variety of projects commissioned by museum curators. 1979-80. 1.)? 2. magazine editors. What do these pictures have in common? What choices did Friedlander tend to make over and over again in the creation of these images? 8 . from Factory Valleys. What can you tell about the choices Friedlander made in creating these images (camera angle.Left and Right: Lee Friedlander Canton. Lee Friedlander photographed American workers to create the images that now comprise the series At Work. use of space. timing. and businesses. etc.

7. Is Friedlander’s style consistent throughout the At Work series. or does it change as he moves from photographing one group to another? Describe your observations. What if anything do you think that Friedlander is trying to communicate about each group of workers pictured in the series? 8. What other than workers do we see in these pictures? 5. Based on what you see in these photographs. How is the American workplace today alike or different from the workplaces we see pictured in Friedlander’s images made in the 1980s and 1990s? 9 .2. Can you tell when Friedlander made these images? What do you see in the pictures that provides clues as to when they were made? 6. What types of workers do we see in these images? How are the workers alike and how are they different? 3. how do Friedlander’s subjects seem to feel about the work that they do? 9.

1. How do you feel when you look at these images? Why? 10 . 1998 Lee Friedlander: Sticks and Stones Questions for Looking and Discussion Sticks and Stones presents Lee Friedlander’s view of rural and urban America as seen through its architecture. lighting. How are these photographs alike or different from other images that you have seen of the American landscape or built environment? 6. use of space etc)? Why do you think he made these choices? 2. 4. People are not directly represented in these images. What do you see in these pictures that suggests human presence? 7.Lee Friedlander Lee Friedlander Bismark. List ten words that you would use to describe these images. The following discussion questions will help viewers consider the construction and possible meanings of Friedlander’s Sticks and Stones series. What visual elements do we see repeated throughout Sticks and Stones? 3. 2002 Denver. What can you tell about how Friedlander made these images (camera angle. North Dakota. Do you notice Friedlander’s presence in any of these images? How? 8. Colorado.

What other than the landscape do you think these photographs are about? 12. Why do you think Friedlander chose the title Sticks and Stones for this series? 11 .9. How is Friedlander’s treatment of urban spaces alike or different from his treatment of rural places? 10. What do think that Friedlander is saying about the American landscape in Sticks and Stones? 11.

Because of his love of jazz he finds work photographing musicians for album covers.Lee Friedlander: An Abbreviated Timeline Lee Friedlander Philadelphia. Aberdeen Washington. Friedlander enrolls in the Los Angeles Art Center School. 1956 Moves to New York and begins freelancing. 1960 Son Erik is born. Richard Avedon and Walker Evans (from a previous generation) who. Upon graduating from high school. 12 . 1948 Begins photographing and gets his first paid job—producing a Christmas card photograph featuring the dog of a local Madame. 1958 Marries Marie De Paoli and moves to a small town on the Hudson River where they still live today. changed the course of American photography in the 60s and 70s. Friedlander soon meets other photographers including Robert Frank. He leaves almost immediately but continued to work privately with instructor Edward Kaminski. Louis Faurer. along with innovative curators including John Szarkowski and Nathan Lyons. Helen Levitt.1965 (Self Portrait) _____________________________________________________________________________ 1934 Born. Diane Arbus. Garry Winogrand.

1983 Solo exhibition at San Francisco Museum of Modern Art. George Eastman House. 1976 The American Monument. 1979. New York. New York. Seibu Museum of Art. curated by John Szarkowski). 1963 First solo exhibition held at the George Eastman House. Lee Friedlander: Self-Portrait. 1986 Lee Friedlander: Portraits. 1966 Work included in the group exhibition Toward a Social Landscape. Eakins Press. 1972 Receives a National Endowment for the Arts Fellowship (Friedlander receives the fellowship again in 1977. The Museum of Modern Art. 1970 Publishes his first monograph. Rochester. 1967 Work included in the group exhibition New Documents The Museum of Modern Art New York (with Garry Winogrand and Diane Arbus. San Francisco. 1982 Factory Valleys. New York (curated by John Szarkowski). prints some of the images. Receives his first John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation Fellowship (he receives the fellowship again in 1962 and 1977). Tokyo. New York (curated by John Szarkowski). Haywire Press. Work included in the exhibition and publication Mirrors and Windows: American Photography Since 1960.J. First solo exhibition at Fraenkel Gallery. Haywire Press. 13 . Bellocg from a New Orleans antique store. Rochester New York (curated by Nathan Lyons). and 1980). New York. and brings Bellocg’s work to the attention of historians and curators. Japan. 1987 Solo exhibition. 1964 Work included in the group exhibition The Photographer’s Eye The Museum of Modern Art. 1962 Daughter Anna is born. New York. New York Graphic Society. 1968 Discovers and purchases the 8x10 glass plate negatives of E. 1978. 1979 Friedlander begins the first of six commissioned projects (stretching through the 1990s) documenting American workers.

Tucson. San Francisco. New York. 1998 Self Portrait. New York. 2000 The National Gallery of Art. 1990 Friedlander switches from photographing with a 35mm Lieca rangefinder camera to a square (medium) format Hasselblad. DAP. Cleveland Museum of Art. Solo exhibition at the Center for Creative Photography. 2005 Major retrospective of Friedlander’s work to be held at the Museum of Modern Art. DAP. Sticks and Stones. Rod Slemmons). Massachusetts. 1996 Desert Seen. Fraenkel Gallery. 2002 At Work. After successful surgery to replace both knees. Smithsonian Press. Fraenkel Gallery. Fraenkel Gallery. University of Arizona. acquires 450 of Friedlander’s images. New York. Washington. 2003 Stems. he examined at close range the vases of flowers that his wife places around their home. New York. Fraenkel Gallery. 1999 American Musicians. Friedlander resumes “walking his camera.1989 Like a One-Eyed Cat: Photographs by Lee Friedlander 1956-1987. DAP. New York.” 2004 Lee Friedlander: Family. New York (with introductory essay by Museum of Contemporary Photography current director. New York. Work included in the group exhibition A City Seen. *Friedlander created this work while suffering from knee pain. 14 . 2001 The Little Screens. DAP New York. Ohio. Abrams and Seattle Art Museum. New York. Fearing he may not be able to continue to photograph on the street. 1992 Maria. DC.