Lee Friedlander, a Jewish American photographer who’s been featured in prominent galleries such as the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) in New York City, is now being shown locally at Haverford College’s Atrium Gallery.
The 83-year-old artist, known for black-and-white photographs documenting the American social landscape, has received the Hasselblad Award, the MacArthur Fellowship, the Guggenheim Fellowship for Creative Arts and the Edward MacDowell Medal for his photographs throughout his career.
The exhibit, titled “Lee Friedlander: The American Monument Photographs,” features photographs from Friedlander’s book The American Monument. Comprised of photographs taken between the 1960s and 1975, the book was originally published in 1976, with a second edition released in 2017. This edition features additional essays, one of which was written by Friedlander himself.
Haverford College, which owns both editions, will display 60 pages of Friedlander’s work.
According to Haverford College Professor of Humanities William Earl Williams, Friedlander organized his work into various themes. The college chose images from each theme to provide what Williams said is “a pretty good sampling of what’s in the entire book.” Just as each state is represented in Friedlander’s book, each state will be showcased in the exhibit.
The “American Monument” photo series features a collection of more than 200 photographs of monuments and their surroundings.
Williams said the choice Friedlander made to include the environment in which the monument is situated is a big part of the aesthetic of the photographs because it speaks to what Americans value.
“There are a number of ways to interpret a monument,” he said, and by taking the photographs that way, Friedlander has provided the richness a viewer needs to see the multiple meanings of the monuments depicted.
Williams began planning the show more than a year ago with the knowledge that the college’s special collection would be closed for the next two years.
He said it was important to do a show featuring Friedlander’s work before the temporary closing of the collection, not only because Friedlander is considered one of the most important photographers of his time, but because The American Monument was one of the first books to be printed using a duo tone half tone printing method. That meant the pages ran through the press twice, first with a lighter ink and then with a darker ink, making the book technologically important.
Monuments themselves have become quite topical and sometimes controversial in recent years, and while Williams said this was not planned, he believes it does add importance to the exhibit.
The exhibit also features supplemental photographs and books by Friedlander and others.
“We have original Friedlander prints, so you can compare the styles of printing,” Williams said.
The exhibit has a number of Friedlander’s other photo books on display to recognize that the photographer thought it was important for his work to be presented in book form. Other artists featured include Eugène Atget and Walker Evans — photographers who influenced Friedlander.
The exhibit debuted on June 1 and will remain open to the public until Sept. 30. The gallery’s hours are Monday through Friday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., but starting on Sept. 9, the gallery, which is located on the college campus at 370 Lancaster Ave. in Haverford, will add weekend hours from noon to 5 p.m.