Photo Salon for the Exchange of Ideas
Robert Frank’s landmark 1959 “The Americans” has just been reissued by Steidl, the German firm that is perhaps the world’s premier photo book publisher. The Americans ($39.95 hardcover) is arguably the single most influential photography book of the 20th century, its 83 grainy black-and-white photographs establishing an aesthetic that is still practiced and prevalent today.
Frank made the photographs in 1955-56 while traveling America on a Guggenheim grant. What he produced is the visual equivalent of Beat writer Jack Kerouac’s “On the Road”, so it was fitting that Kerouac, a native of Lowell, Massachusetts, wrote the introduction in his highly imitated hipster stream-of-consciousness style. The sad, sympathetic 1950s images of an American people in love with cars, televisions, celebrities, jukeboxes, and religion resonate with the America of today.
Robert Frank, 83, the deus absconditus of contemporary photography, has lived in relative seclusion in Mabou, Nova Scotia, for so long that it’s sometimes surprising to realize he’s still with us.
Lee Friedlander, 73, on the other hand, is very much with us and in evidence. Friedlander and the late Garry Winogrand were the godfathers of street photography, but Friedlander has remained amazingly productive to this day.
“Lee Friedlander Photographs: Frederick Law Olmsted Landscapes” (DAP, $85 hardcover) features 89 tritone photographs of landscapes designed by FLO, the greatest American landscape architect. Although these are all cultivated landscapes, Friedlander generally prefers their wilder environs, with a particular focus and grand, gnarled trees.
Among the New England landscapes featured are the Arnold Arboretum, Charles River, Charleston Heights, Franklin Park and Jamaica Pond in Boston, World’s End in Hingham, Massachusetts, Middlesex Falls in Malden, Massachusetts, and Cushing Island in Maine’s Casco Bay.
“Lee Friedlander: A Ramble in Olmsted Parks,” an exhibition of 40 of Friedlander’s Olmsted landscapes, is at the Metropolitan Museum of Art through May 11 should you be in Manhattan this spring.