Saturday, July 12, 2008


Austin, Texas 1971

A few days ago while having a discussion about Lee Friedlander, the question was put to me: I don't mean to imply that you are old, Frank. But, what was your reaction when Friedlander's work was first being shown? I answered by saying: I might be too old to remember that far back.....ya' know? ;-) Probably a bit quizzical. I became aware of Friedlander about the same time I met Winogrand, and had been heavily exposed to the FSA and WPA photographers via Russell Lee. I think I've always had an eye for the off-beat, the unusual, things observed that make me do a double-take. Not things hidden, but commonplace things so common that very few people take notice, or just do not understand the weirdly profound moment right before them. (Not to imply that I understand, but am enough aware to make a picture!) You could say that I was lucky, because I sorta' got exposed to all those post war (WW-II) photographers -- those mentioned above, and Smith, Eisenstaedt, Doisneau, Levit.....the list is long. I don't think that Friedlander struck me as all that weird, or different. Or even radical at the time. I was getting past my Ansel is God era, and beginning to look more to what was happening on the street. Up front, I am no Friedlander, nor do I pretend I'm other than myself. But you can see here from this group of images made from 1969-73, and exhibited in 1974, that all those street photographers had some effect on me. What it mostly says about me is that I've been doing this a long time, and don't really remember the first time I became aware of Friedlander. Back when I started to think more seriously about photography as a means to understand my surroundings in a visual sense, I carried a camera with me everywhere I went. And I mean everywhere. If I was turned in for the night, the camera slept beside me on the bedside table. This was back in the late '60s and early '70s, I went through the Leica M2 phase, the Nikon F phase, etc., but settled on as a "carry around" the little Canonet QL 1.9 35mm camera which sported a 40mm f/1.9 lens and an automatic exposure system. Where the lens was quite good, like all auto-exposure systems in those days, that part didn't work too well. But the camera's biggest asset was it's size -- about half the size of a Leica M2 and only half the weight, too. I see there are several of these cameras still available on eBay for around $20. Light meters probably don't work, but that is no biggie -- might have to get me one to play with. I'd have to buy some Tri-X film to go in it, however -- something I haven't done in about four years.

1 comment:

Bridgie said...

Frank, I really am loving looking at the "really old stuff" album. Sometimes, I think, whether we know it or not, at certain times in cultural life, certain things are just in the air, so to speak. People all over the world thinking about the same thing, exploring their ideas on it in their own ways...

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