Lee Friedlander: “New Mexico”
Published: April 6, 2011
When I used to teach photography, this one I used to use for my students just to show a bunch of things. For one, there was a large movement in the ’70s of just revisiting the snapshot, and it became the snapshot aesthetic. And a lot of photographers were working in that way, and it was sort of a combination of informal and formal at the same time. That’s what I love about Lee Friedlander’s work. There’s a certain informality and a certain formalness in the way he structures them.
With this one, I wanted to teach my students about the compression of space and how photographers can deal with flatness. A lot of people, they see something, they just take a picture of it and that’s it. They don’t think about how things relate to things in the background. And other photographers are real tacticians. In this case, I love this horse coming out of the side of this thing in the foreground. There’s all these vertical lines that are playing over and over and over again—and yet it’s not terribly obvious, it’s a subtle thing.
And then this big graphic at the top that kind of grabs you like a highlight. And then after you look at all this stuff, you see the photographer himself as a shadow. So there’s layer after layer after layer of visual ideas going on—the way this pole intersects the center of that shrub. And there are other things cutting through objects and lining up.
So I tried to show this as an example of a complex image that’s been really organized but it takes a trained eye to recognize that organization. And he’s somebody who influenced me, but not until later on. I would look at it and think, “That’s cool,” but some photographers don’t make sense to me until I really re-looked at them. He’s one of them.
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