Saturday, August 4, 2018

Lee Friedlander: Chain Link Hardcover – November 21, 2017 by Lee Friedlander (Photographer) (Steidl)

Anyone familiar with Friedlander's work knows that he can't resist a chain link fence, they keep people out (or in) but they're useless in stopping photography. He's been looking through them for over fifty years with the biggest selection, up till now, in his 2004 book 'Sticks and stones: architecture in America'.

This new title has ninety-seven wonderful shots of chain links dividing the background into hundreds of little diamonds, of course, the best fences are partially broken ones where the diamonds get stretched into unrecognisable shapes and when Friedlander finds one of these he playfully likes to include his shadow in the shot. The chain link doesn't always cover the whole image, lots of the photos have the fence only half-way up the frame or maybe a corner post with the fence occupying just an upright half of the picture.

The photos cover fifty-four years with the first one from New York in 1963 (taken when Friedlander was only twenty-nine) a beauty of a double fence with what looks like a two foot gap so extra uprights and horizontal sections are added into the mix. The latest shot is from Santa Barbara in 2016. The last image in the book is Freidlander's face close behind some broken chain link and looking at the camera.

Long time Friedlander collaborator Katy Homans did her usual immaculate book design and Steidl printed it with a 175 screen, no jacket instead a photo tipped onto the front and back covers.Lee Friedlander is celebrated for his ability to weave disparate elements from ordinary life into uncanny images of great formal complexity and visual wit. And few things have attracted his attention―or been more unpredictable in their effect―than the humble chain link fence.
Erected to delineate space, form protective barriers and bring order to chaos, the fences in Friedlander’s pictures catch filaments of light, throw disconcerting shadows and visually interrupt scenes without fully occluding them. Sometimes the steel mesh seems as delicate as lace; at others it appears as tough as snakeskin. In this book’s 97 pictures, drawn from over four decades of work, it recurs as versatile, utilitarian and ubiquitous―not unlike the photographer himself.

Surely it's only Friedlander who can use an incredibly mundane product like a chain link fence and deliver page after page of photos full of fascinating detail of what is behind the wire

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