The exhibition will begin at Musée des beaux-arts Le Locle, Switzerland, in early 2018 and will be available subsequently starting in June of 2018.
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Books & Photographs 1969-2015
For most photographers, a book is a prime means of getting their work out into the world. Few have understood this better than Lee Friedlander. As Peter Galassi, has observed, “Friedlander’s medium is the black-and-white silver gelatin print – the workhorse of photography for most of the twentieth century. These smallish pictures look good reproduced in books, and Friedlander loves photography books. He made—conceived, edited, designed, nuanced, published, warehoused, sold and distributed, both wholesale and retail—the first of his own books in 1970. Eventually Friedlander found commercial publishers to relieve him and his wife of the cottage industry they had created and patiently sustained. But in every sense that matters he remains the author of his books ...”
By 2015, Friedlander had conceived of and initiated the publication of over 50 books of his photographs. In recent years he has invariably had at least one book in the works at all times. Mostly relatively slim and always image-driven, these publications, better than his individual prints and even his many exhibitions, topically segment, index, sequence, and codify his vast record of the world. Friedlander does not typically make sets or series of images, but often finds himself pursuing certain topics extensively, occasionally driven by commission, as with his views of sculpture in the collection of the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Gardens, or workers at Cray Research, Inc. Museum surveys of his work have also provided several key opportunities for generating books.
Though he worked on assignment at the start of his professional life, he goes about picture-making only to later realize that he has amassed images that can be meaningfully grouped as a subject for a book. Friedlander’s books have gathered his self-portraits, pictures of his wife and children, portraits of his wide range of friends and acquaintances, musicians, people at work, female nudes, television screens, still lifes of flower stems, signage, cars, monuments, vernacular architecture, shop window mannequins, and deserts, landscapes, and verdant parks. Very specific topics, like John F. Kennedy, the Italian cemetery of Staglieno, or his artist friends Ronald Kitaj or Raul Hague, have also been subjects of his books. His opportunities and pleasure in travel and road trips have been the source of the majority of his books.
Friedlander’s books began in 1969 with a collaboration with the painter/printmaker Jim Dine and in 1970 Friedlander launched, with a selection of his self-portraits, his own Haywire Press. Two other books were published by Haywire in the early 1970s, as was a portfolio. Since then a variety of museums, foundations, publishers, distributors, and galleries (particularly Fraenkel Gallery in San Francisco), have partnered with him. Five Friedlander books were made in the 1970s, six in the 1980s, nine in the 1990s, an astounding sixteen in the first decade of the 21st century, and eight since 2010. There have also been over sixteen related special editions and portfolios of his works that corroborate Friedlander’s enormous commitment to organizing, publishing, and broadly disseminating his photographs.
An accompanying publication will be produced by a major trade publisher in association with FEP. It will document how the books are produced and illuminate his various collaborators’ roles.