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Monday, 28 March 2011


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Well, $8,500 is 100 times more democratic that $850,000. Although I doubt even Friedlander could charge that much for new prints.

Wow, the photos in the DLK Collection link are certainly a waste of electrons. You click on them to see a larger version and you still can't make out what's in the framed images. And the links to Amazon don't provide any additional image info either. It's tough to find much of Lee Friedlander's work online.


You should be happy that these prints are selling for $8,500. It proves that can transcend the gallery mantra of edittioning and still get to that level. Also, a well-known gallerist gave me the advice to "buy a Friedlaender because he is the greatest living American photographer and prices will go up." I haven't bought one yet, I bought an M9 instead, seemed more useful.

Obviously your comments about "democracy" are tongue in cheek, but I want to add a couple of thoughts anyway.

A high price is less exclusive than a limited edition in that anybody who can somehow scrape up $8500 can have an original print. It doesn't matter if that would otherwise be your weekly cat toy budget or if it means you're going to keep driving a rusted out '76 Dart for another five years. A limited edition, by contrast, is inherently exclusive. It's not too much of a stretch to call that a difference in "democracy".

A limited edition also involves a risk shift that is not present with a high price. The buyer of the limited edition faces a reduced risk that the price of the piece will later decline, because of the artificial restriction on supply. This imposes at least a potential cost on non-speculative buyers who may find themselves shut out of the market if they don't buy soon enough. A speculative Friedlander buyer gets no such reduction in risk -- and for that reason, a Friedlander print will be available to anyone who can come up with the asking price.

That is as it should be: people should buy art because they love it, not because they expect the price to go up. Speculators should not be given an implicit subsidy at the (at least potential) expense of art lovers. I don't know if that's democratic, but it should appeal to anyone who values efficient, liquid markets. And to me it just seems right.

Here's a link to the exhibition announcement at Mary Boone, for those wanting to see more of the works. (This catalog (book) has not yet been released.)

Friedlander's "landscapes" remind me of those of John Gossage, although perhaps Lee's seem generally a bit more composed for aesthetic impact than John's.

I don't follow Friedlander closely but it seems that he has become a bit of a landscape hound late in his life, as is perhaps so common. I've glanced, for example, through his 2008 Frederick Law Olmsted book just recently ... nicely engaging. And I was surprised to see this book of his desert landscapes, which I've not seen.

$8500 for a print? You have to be kidding. But I know you're not. I have nothing against bomb throwing and rule breaking if it results in an image that I enjoy or otherwise get something from looking at. From what I've seen of his landscapes, they look like they were the result of accidentally tripping the shutter.

$8500 might not seem very democratic, but if had limited his edition to 25 prints they would be $85,000. Everything is relative.

Friedlander has been well known for his work in 35mm. Was he so much a "rule-breaking subversive" as to make these images using a 35mm film camera in this day of digital and large film format landscapes?

This might help shift a few copies of Camera Lucida:


I've seen this new Friedlander book, and it is indeed very nicely made, with a good quality cloth case and very nice photo reproductions. The photographs themselves are very much a matter of taste; I find the images more than a little harsh in their handling of midtones and highlights, sort of like Ray Metzker's work. Others may like the intentionally unsentimental take on such a potentially romantic subject. To my eyes it doesn't quite click.

I actually like one of Friedlander's other recent landscape books a lot better. Lee Friedlander Photographs Frederick Law Olmsted Landscapes is an equally nice large-format cloth bound book featuring photographs taken in Olmsted parks around the U.S. His somewhat stark printing interpretation seems to suit the subject very well. I'm very familiar with Rochester's Highland Park, and Friedlander's photos of it really struck a cord, at least for me.

Long live bomb-throwing, rule-breaking subversives!

I'm not so sure about that review you quoted. I know a lot of bomb-throwing, rule-breaking subversives, and Friedlander is never at their meetings. I checked.

Isn't this another evidence that limited editions work (besides the influence of TOP which is well known) ? Here is a $125, 30 page book which is in quite high demand.

For an excellent introduction to the work of Friedlander, I'd suggest his MOMA retrospective catalog. Other books may be better printed or designed, but this one gives you large selections from all its bodies of work. It's interesting to see how many genres Friedlander has touched, while contributing his signature vision to each of them. The introduction by Galassi is one of the best surveys of the work of a photographer I have seen, and would be worth the price alone. Certainly a bargain compared to the Boone Gallery book. It's been out of print at some point, but seem to have been reprinted.

Only 30 pages. Not in the budget this time around.


I pre-ordered, but I got my doubts. I think they could probably sell all 500 at the Mary Boone Gallery, so why should they ship any to Amazon?

If the photo of a Friedlander exhibition on the Boone website is an accurate indiction, Friedlander is one of those guys who prints small. In my opinion, well-produced books are an excellent way to look at photos, especially when the originals are printed small. It's not the same as looking at the originals, but in some ways, it's better -- it's hard to compare two prints that are in different rooms of a gallery, but with a book, you can flip back and forth between pages. Books are very natural showcases for photography, IMHO.


A limited edition book? Crazy. I already wanted it, but thought that the price is too high. Will the limited edition get me to pay more than I otherwise would have? No....but it made me think pretty hard about it.

Mmmm... £3.00 per page is a little rich for me, 'though I'm sure it would be worth more in future (if I didn't open it), mmmm.... Couldn't they print 3 times more at £1.00 per page ? Yeah, I know, I know, darn it.

'By the way, the prints are priced at $8,500 each. Doesn't seem all that democratic...'

Funny, I had the exact same thought.

"...The most reasonable conclusion would be that Friedlander, even at his advanced age, is a bomb-throwing, rule-breaking subversive. His pictures disregard nearly every landscape convention and cliché on the books...."

I feel the same way about Friedlander's "Cherry Blossom Time in Japan." Incredible work. I can return to the book again and again.

$400 or $1000 is only somewhat more democratic than $8500, I think. I know I can't justify either price, and very few of my friends (late-20s, early-30s for the most part) could.

I suspect that 'democracy' (excluding the billions of people who couldn't afford even these) dwells somewhere in the realm of 20x200's editions - $20 for an 8x10, $50 for an 11x14.

On the other hand I have to admit that sometimes I have a hard time thinking of those as 'works of art,' when they cost less than a hardcover book.

(quite a lot of good photography in the 20x200 collection, incidentally - as a form it stands up to inkjet reproduction much better than the design/drawing work they also sell)

"but then again, the best introductions are out of print."

Man, I would love to get my hands on Friedlander's The American Monument. What a great collection of photos.

Well, I pre-ordered also, but I'm with John Camp and his take. Maybe I'll get it and maybe I won't. I'll get back to you on this...

My first reaction was to order the book, as Friedlander is a major figure in fine art photograph and I have admired much of his work. I was curious to see how he would "interpret" the Western Landscape, a genre that has been photographed by everyone from Ansel Adams to your Cousin Vinnie. I hesitated and decided to check out the photographs on the Mary Boone Gallery web page. Good move, for me. I can't believe how uninspired and mundane I found the photographs. If I had taken them, I am sure I would have deleted them upon download.

I guess I'll have to make the stupid comment this time. Looking at some of Friedlander's photographs from the exhibition on the net, I can't tell much aesthetic difference between his, mine or my friends when we go for a casual stroll in the countryside. Sorry about my lack of artistic insight.
Democracy then? Democracy is when you can sell an ordinary (nothing wrong with ordinary things or people) photo for 8,500 bucks, or when an idiot can be elected to become the head of state of a country. Nothing wrong with democracy, either.

You might rexamine your editing precepts, if you are deleting pictures for which people pay $8500 per print. Maybe the ones you're keeping are the wrong ones.


"You might rexamine your editing precepts, if you are deleting pictures for which people pay $8500 per print. Maybe the ones you're keeping are the wrong ones."

Mike - That sounds like a couple of columns could come out of that comment. The typical questions in this case would be :

If I had taken those exact same photos, and presented them to the gallery, would they have done anything other than politely shoo me out the door?

I think most people would answer "no". But if Lee Friedlander presents those images, they get carefully considered, and thought about. But it's really really difficult to get to that point.

I guess what I'm saying is, it doesn't matter which ones Howard keeps, since there's a lot more to it than just which images to take.

True, but I get very weary of that critical stratagem, which is essentially the same as responding to an abstract painting with "My five-year-old could do that."


No one should ever judge the quality of a photograph based on a 500-pixel jpeg.

Don't see much subversive in the landscapes. However a dose of 50s, 60s (or even 70s 80s) Friedlander works can really get me fired up to take some shots. He's one of those photographers that make me want to head straight out the door with the camera and take that shadow across brick or reflection in window shot that I might not have bothered with. There is an excellent and extensive (although small in pic size) sample collection here.

You might rexamine your editing precepts, if you are deleting pictures for which people pay $8500 per print. Maybe the ones you're keeping are the wrong ones.


In this case, I don't think so, Mike. If Friedlander's signature(or some other "name") was not on those photographs, they would never see the inside of a high end gallery. My preferences lie with landscape photographs that capture the beauty of the land, but I also appreciate landscape photographs that do not portray beauty in any traditional sense, but still make a strong statement about something. The Friedlander photographs do neither. They just look so banal to me.

"...responding to an abstract painting with 'My five-year-old could do that.' "

I didn't quite mean it that way. Yes, your five year old could have taken one of those Friedlander images. But there's no way he could have taken them all, and had a point in doing so. That's not really my point though.

My point was more that I get the impression that it would be easy to overlook those images without the significant body of work that Lee Friedlander has. So even if Howard had taken the same images as those in the book, if he didn't have an artistic point behind it, and hadn't put in the effort and work over the years, they still wouldn't show up in the gallery.

I guess what I'm trying to say (probably poorly) is that a lot of art doesn't register as a stand alone work, but is made worthwhile by who is associated with it and/or its standing within a larger collection or genre.

(PS - I really like the titles of those Friedlander shots, and how well they match (or fail to match) the images, when taken as a single collection, and not individual images.)

Seeing the hype around this particular book with some reservation I suggest to ingest (!) Friedländer's previous work first. For example >The Desert Seen) is still widely available - and comparably cheap.

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