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Lee Friedlander: America by Car Hardcover – July 1, 2010
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Lee Friedlander is 76 and has published at least one photography book every year since before many of us were born. Judging from his latest, "America by Car," he still has a lot left in his tank. The book shows how our views of the landscapes outside our cars--from our boulevards of strip malls to our national parks--are warped by, and inseparable from, the windows and struts inside. Mr. Friedlander's camera reminds us what a weird and hilarious world we are ignoring most of the time. --Richard Woodward, Wall Street Journal, December 16, 2010
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In Friedlander's current project, he continues to utilize the Hasselblad Super Wide camera--a camera model he has been using on other projects for the past decade. The all-encompassing sweep of the wide lens fits perfectly with his methods. The tremendous depth of field, supported by fill flash, works here even better than in previous projects such as "Sticks and Stones", "The Desert Seen" and "Apples and Olives" for example. Those books were generally a chaotic tangle of elements that drew you in by challenging you to work out the puzzle. "America by Car" is more accessible.
"America by Car" is so full of treasures, I could not begin to describe them. I received this book last week and I've spent a good deal of time with it. Each time I've gone through it, I've had a smile on my face. Friedlander has come up with a wonderful project with photos over several years that includes the door, window frame, windshield and dashboard of whatever car he happened to be using at the time as an important element of the photograph. It's not just a method to frame the subject, the car is part of the main subject. As in other Friedlander photos, each element is as important as any other. Here he succeeded with a consistently high level of interesting and humorous pictures.
This is a highly recommended book, easy to approach if you're not familiar with Friedlander's work yet a very satisfying for those of us who have known and loved his pictures for many years.
The photos were taken between 1992 and 2009, though most are from this century with locations, quite literally, right across the country. There are noticeable themes as you turn the pages: people in the frame on pages 18 to 23; graves 110 to 119; trucks and industry 136 to 149; people again 150 to 157; STOP signs 185 to 191. Some shots, if you strip out the car from the photo, are similar to other Friedlander books. Page 182 could be from 'The Desert Seen' or pages 74/75 and 130/131 from his architectural masterpiece 'Sticks & Stones'.
The book follows Friedlander's liking for square format prints (eight and a half inches) and his friends contribute to the book's wonderful look: Thomas Palmer for the separations, Katy Homans for the simple, elegant design and Meridian Printing for their usual immaculate 300 screen duotones.
I've looked through the book several times and the W-O-W factor keeps popping up in my mind as I discover something new in a photo I've looked at over and over. Lee Friedlander delivers his own playful vision yet again throughout these pages.
***SEE SOME INSIDE PAGES by clicking 'customer images' under the cover.
My pleasure with the book was amplified by the surprise of finding several images from places I recognized--including a portrait of his friend Richard Benson walking away from a real estate office with the half dead cooling towers of Three Mile Island in the background, camera in hand. Most photographers would have made the picture of the real estate office with the towers--but Friedlander tweaks the image to include a tribute to a friend, a memory of a disaster, and a very good joke in a single frame.
From a photography book collectors point of view, this book is a real bargain, 192 splendidly printed images. This book would be a bargain at twice the price.