Thursday, January 25, 2007

Lee Friedlander's a Punk

The first time I saw a Lee Friedlander exhibit, I was appalled. It was just over a year ago, and I've been fuming ever since.

I mean, I'll be the first to admit I'm not a good photographer. I've never taken classes; I don't know what I'm doing; and I only just learned how to adjust the f-stop on my Sony (just in time for it to break — perfect!).

But at least I had a style. At least I had an eye for various oddities that others typically pass by with nary a glance.

I photographed my own shadow (see profile picture); my reflection in mirrors. Old barns; the instrusion of the city in the country (and vice versa); hay fields in motion; silly road signs. Etc. I've been doing this for years, with little-to-no awareness of what professionals had done before me (Ansel Adams and Eugene Smith notwithstanding).

Most people saw my photography as an indication of borderline mental crises. But some select folks have actually found amusement in it (including a few of the artists I work with), which is all that matters in my book.

So imagine my surprise when I'm introduced to the work of this Friedlander guy — a guy who has ENTIRE EXHIBITS christened in his name alone — and I find out that he's been taking pictures of shadows; of reflections; and rural life in motion for, oh, a couple or three decades. At least.

And, as you might expect, he does so considerably better than I do. He doesn't just have a style. He has style.

And to make matters worse, he actually knows how to use a camera. The nerve!

(c) Lee Friedlander

(c) Me

So I'm talking to a co-worker, and she mentions she recently went to a photography exhibit in a nearby city.

"You'd really like this guy's work," she says. "It reminded me a lot of yours, actually. I wish I could remember his name..."

"Was it Lee Friedlander?" I asked. "A lot of 'self-portrait' and shadow shots?"

"Yes, that's it!" she exclaimed. "You know him?"

Know him? I thought. He stole my best ideas before I was born.

Lee Friedlander photos lovingly borrowed from Masters of Photography.


Winter said...

Just tell yourself it proves that he's not orginal.

You thought of it too, without ever seeing his work.

But I like yours. (And now his too..) ((I'm sorry!))

Anonymous said...

Yeah, it sucks when you develop a sense of style without knowing someone else has developed it decades before you were born. It sucks even more that people say your pictures remind them of this guy who has exhibits and stuff. I know I hate it when people favorably compare my stuff with the work of someone famous.

Wait, no one ever has. Never mind. :)

thirdworstpoetinthegalaxy said...

Winter - No need to apologize. It's difficult to not like his work. Since I was first introduced to him a year or two ago, I've been to a few exhibits that have had some of his photographs.

I can recognize his work amongst other photographers' even if it's a picture I've never seen before... I just look for a photo that resembles something I've taken.

(Only his is a million times better... hence the immediate surge in blood pressure upon recognizing his work.)

thirdworstpoetinthegalaxy said...

BPP - It's not that they say: "Hey, your photograph looks just as good as his," but that they say "Hey, he takes the same sort of pictures that you do."

I.e. In all but one respect (which I won't mention while typing from work), we have a fascination for similar images, poses, lighting, etc.

Difference being he knows what he's doing... I don't. He uses film... I use digital. He likely develops his own prints... I stopped playing with chemicals when I dropped my lab key in HCl in high school.

disgruntled world citizen said...

he may have "style" but your photos have your stamp on them. they way you look at the world, as it were.

you should check Tati's movie Playtime. the way it is shot reminds me of these photos, too.

disgruntled world citizen said...

actually, there was a French photographer way back when photography was just getting started that took pictures like this, too. He died in obscurity, but another artist, Man Ray perhaps "discovered" his photos and decided that this guy was an "abstract artist." now, if I could only remember his name. I'll try and find out for you.

I really like your pics. They are really quite good. I hope to see them in a big glossy, clay page art book someday. I'd drop 80 bucks for it.

As always,


thirdworstpoetinthegalaxy said...

Hmmm... I just had a brilliant idea!

There's a 20% chance I'll want my tombstone to read "She died in obscura."

thirdworstpoetinthegalaxy said...

P.S. DWC - Does that mean you'd pay $80 for a nicely matted print?

Because, if so, tell me which one and it's yours.

Kidding. Only kidding.

disgruntled world citizen said...

a "clay page book" is one of those fancy art books you can get in bookstore or an art museum.

thirdworstpoetinthegalaxy said...

DWC - Oh, I knew what you were referring to. I just figured if you were willing to part with the $80, I'd go ahead and take it now... cut out the middle man, get you a nice signed photo, etc etc. :)

Winter said...

Charge more thirdworst! If you charge more, it means it's worth more. Or so I've learned with art..

Anonymous said...

yeah - checkmate. it was awesome a when somebody called me Stevie Ray Vaughan. (now re-read with appropriate sarcasm).