Friedlander’s style of photography is usually cool, winking, and gamesman-like, but his pictures of his wife thrum with gentle affection.
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.
Since the 70’s, Lee Friedlander has been intermittently documenting Americans at work: employees in a Cleveland steel mill, telemarketers in an Omaha calling center, M.I.T. technicians staring into their computer monitors. A few weeks ago, Friedlander encountered some very different production values when he turned his eye to the glamour factory otherwise known as New York fashion week.