San Francisco

Lee Friedlander

Friends of Photography

Early on, in the late ’60s, Lee Friedlander’s photography was acclaimed for its skittish alienation effects and headlong artlessness. Looking at his pictures now, you realize how willfully their images have been managed, whether the compositions are helter-skelter or nominally empty. (That willfulness can be overbearing. Friedlander is also notorious for the stupefaction his monstrous puns and one-liners can induce; it’s a chronic case of humor running afoul of its own logic.) Friedlander doesn’t come off as alienated, as if the culture has pushed his sensibility aside; you sense that he has arrived on the scene from elsewhere as a designated observer, a live wire, an often haplessly disruptive goof out of step with, yet transfixed by, the ways of modern life. Such distancing (not just esthetic but at the core of his vision) might be innate or coolly devised for the peculiar, often spooky

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