Lee Friedlander once slyly assessed his promiscuous eye by saying, “I tend to photograph the things that get in front of my camera.” For Friedlander, this was in part a kind of formalist credo: his most innovative photographs are elegant spatial muddles, frames so stuffed to the gills that one imagines his hidebound camera-club contemporaries clutching their manuals in horror. But it was also, of course, an emphatic statement of fact. Like many of the pioneering American photographers of the middle twentieth century, Friedlander’s life in pictures meant pounding the pavement, and piling Kerouacian miles on his odometer in between. Now eighty-four years old, he once said that the longest he’s gone without shooting was the three months it took him to recover from a double knee replacement, in 1998. But the things that got in front of Friedlander's camera weren’t always out in the wilds of the street. Sometimes, the consummate peripatetic photographed within the quieter confines of his home.
The most enduring subject of Friedlander’s personal photographic memory palace is his wife, Maria, whom he married in 1958. The two met while he was trying to rustle up some freelance work for Sports Illustrated, where she was an editorial assistant, and she found herself in front of his lens almost immediately. The intimate pictures he made of her during the first flowering of their relationship, with their children, Anna and Erik, and, as time rolled on, their grandchildren, Ava and Giancarlo, seem to sit in some liminal space between the finger-printed plastic sheaths of a family album and the chill of a museum’s walls. (A suite of thirty-two of these pictures, spanning fifty years of marriage, is currently on view at Deborah Bell’s apartment-like uptown gallery space, in New York.)
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