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  • Provenance

    Fraenkel Gallery, San Francisco

  • Literature

    Galassi, Friedlander, pl. 120; Harry N. Abrams, Inc., Lee Friedlander: Like a One-Eyed Cat: Photographs 1956-1987, pl. 20; Haywire Press, Lee Friedlander, Photographs, pl. 31; Museum of Modern Art, Self Portrait, pl. 27; Weski and Liesbrock, How You Look at It: Photographs of the 20th Century, p. 427

  • Catalogue Essay

    American street photography rose to prominence following the Second World War, as Americans, exhausted by the psychological strain of emotional suppression, extreme industrial production, and nationalistic unison, began turning the photographic lens away from the world and unto their own selves. The advantages of photography laid in its immediate, spontaneous capturing of fleeting moments and its assumed objectivity in depicting the world as it stood. With its infinitely layered social, cultural, racial and economic strata, the United States presented photographers with a myriad of visuals from which to choose and begin reshaping the nation’s new portrait with a great
    level of honesty. Among those photographers who shaped the new American sense of self were Garry Winogrand and Lee Friedlander.

    Not surprisingly, the paths of the two photographers were similar: both awarded the Guggenheim Fellowship three times throughout their illustrious careers, and both exhibiting at the George Eastman House in 1963, and in the New Documents exhibition at Museum of Modern Art in 1967, under John Szarkowski’s directorship. Nonetheless, each photographer employed a markedly different sensitivity. Winogrand’s view of America was infused with his sense of wit and affinity for motion, invariably injecting his images with a sense of energy.

    The burlesque dancer backstage (lot 114), is at the height of preparing for a titillating show, presenting a scene of unguarded seduction and playfulness that stands in stark contrast with the social conservatism that typified the 1950s. Similarly, San Francisco International Airport, (lot 113), humorously depicts an illusion in which an unintentional axis formed by the different elements within the frame has two airplanes scraping just above one attendant’s head and directly heading towards a pilot’s cap.
    Dallas, Texas, 1974 (lot 101), bestows viewers with a familiar scene of bustling energy in which a football game appears at the brink of reaching its peak, a moment heightened by the dramatic tilt of the camera. And in Fifteen Photographs, 1952-1973, (lot 112), Winogrand has compiled scenes, be it of flirty camaraderie or insouciant laissez-faire, that collectively embody the free spirit and the subtly comical eye that Winogrand so deftly relied on throughout his career.

    Friedlander likewise formed a topographic map of the social landscape of its era, albeit utilizing a distinctly different eye. By incorporating text from signs, posters and billboards into his photographs, Friedlander altered in the ways in which images were read on literal and figurative levels. In New York City (Father Duffy), 1974, (Lot 99), Friedlander created a strong juxtaposition between the revered military chaplain, Francis Patrick Duffy, and the oasis of commercial Pop-culture-heavy billboards that appear to all but drown him. Friedlander makes a likewise astute commentary on Pop-culture in The Little Screens series, as seen in lot 96. Galax, Virginia, 1966, was taken as the advent of television the decade prior engendered an alternate way to experience reality. The image of the baby, a symbol of youth, innocence and growth, becomes a mechanical and artificial experience. The frame-withina- frame format is one that Friedlander was adept at, as seen in New Orleans, 1968, lot 98. The image presents multiple plains—some reflected, some recessed, within the same frame. This effectively collapses the distance between the background and the foreground, presenting a moment of unassuming surrealism in an otherwise ordinary scene. Moreover, one of the elements that add greater dimensionality to the image is the centrality of the photographer within the frame. Viewers are reminded that not only is Friedlander the creator of the image but also the conduit that removes the distance between the alternate plains of depth. Friedlander’s inclusion in the frame can also be seen in Texas, 1965, (lot 100) where his shadow rises out of the foreground as naturally as the surrounding cacti, and New York City, 1966, (lot 97). In the latter image, Friedlander innovates the notion of a self-portrait altogether as his clear silhouette is contingent on the female passerby’s back. It is an astute observation on the unexpected convergences in the everyday, and the potential surreal charm that could ensue.

97

NYC

1966
Gelatin silver print.
6 1/4 x 9 1/2 in. (15.9 x 24.1 cm).
Signed, titled, dated in pencil and copyright credit reproduction limitation stamp on the verso.

Estimate
$35,000 - 55,000 

Sold for $68,500

Photographs

4 October 2011
New York