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Black and white photo of a street, including a car, 2 houses and palm trees
Black and white photo of a street, including a car, 2 houses and palm trees

California, 1961.   Credit...Lee Friedlander, via Eakins Press Foundation, Fraenkel Gallery, and Luhring Augustine Gallery

These days, real estate imagery is often defined by staged hotel-lobby-style furniture and generic artwork, dramatic drone shots on unsettlingly perfect sunny days and a lack of human presence — almost never do you see any people or evidence that these homes have been lived in.

Lee Friedlander’s new photo book, “Real Estate,” published by Eakins Press Foundation, runs counter to all that. Spanning over 60 years of work with 155 photos, the collection takes viewers on journeys from Alaska to Arizona to New York and more, often viewed from the driver’s seat of Mr. Friedlander’s car. There are images of houses and apartments, sure, but there are also images of life and death, construction and destruction. One image shows a billboard advertising, “We buy ugly houses.” The collection is a much-needed reminder that everyday-ness, ugliness and the world as it is — without any manicuring or staging — is worth admiring.

“In a Friedlander picture, the houses have personalities. The buildings look like they’ve been caught in the act of doing something embarrassing,” wrote Peter Kayafas, the director of Eakins Press Foundation, in the afterword. As opposed to much other real estate photography, which is “fraught with layers of subjectivity passed off as impartiality: think of the fisheye lens that stretches the space of an otherwise punishingly cramped NYC apartment,” Mr. Kayafas wrote.

Throughout his career, Mr. Friedlander has made around 70 photo books and became known for capturing what many curators, artists and writers would refer to as the American “social landscape” through everyday people, places and things, traversing urban, suburban and rural environments. “If the world was made of ice cream, I have a spoon,” said Mr. Friedlander, 89.

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