Photograph by Lee Friedlander // Nebraska, 1999.
One of my favourite American photographers has to be Lee Friedlander. His ability to so strongly reinforce the idea to the viewer that the photograph is JUST a two-dimensional object is remarkable. The way he consciously composes his images so it is purposefully busy, yet is readable and accessible to the viewer is something I find very inspiring. I have tried on multiple occasions to replicate his style, but have had little success so far.
Friedlander’s series ‘America By Car’ demonstrates his skill as a landscape photographer in an unconventional way. Like a tonal painting, this collection harmoniously balances external and interior lighting, as well as a very large depth of field. His ability to compose photographs, in my opinion is second to none, with this series outlining this very obviously. Most people with even a slight interest in photography will have tried the cliche ‘reflection in the wing mirror’ shot, and 99% fail to achieve an interesting or mildly exciting composition. Friedlander on the other hand seems to execute this style of imagery with perfect ease. He seems to be able to reduce a vast amount of information into visually exciting compositions.
The idea that a photograph is merely a two-dimensional image is something that I have been considering a lot recently. Following on from a Critical Perspectives seminar, the idea of a photograph only being a “re-presentation” (Graham Clarke, 1997) of a place or thing, rather than a truthful representation became a very interesting idea to me. At the end of the day, “a photograph has edges, the world does no t” (Stephen Shore, 1998). Should we be more cautious when presented with a photograph, and not believe the cliche that the “camera never lies”? This may be true in some cases, but the photographer always has motives, whether conscious or unconscious – we should not believe everything that is presented to us.
Always ask questions.