Two books out of the library on Lee Friedlander are very helpful in looking for an aesthetic for ideas of border and enclosure.
The Little Screens, by Saul Anton, precisely describes the importance of a series of photos by Friedlander, here seen as “One Work” – part of a series of analytical titles under the title After all books, published by the University of the Arts, London and MIT,
The work captures the disjointedness of space that the images on television cut into a room or updated and in our current world, the distortion of the Black Mirrors that are our phones and iPads. The Little Screens have more accidental life than the formal motel bedrooms in Friedlander’s survey, but this is an imposed attraction, in the photos eyes watch furtively, hands threaten with guns, bodies are draped to sell products. The parody of our unthinking gaze, ignoring the surreal clashes created, ignoring the disturbing imagery, sharply critiques our acceptance of this visuall distortion in our safe and neutral spaces.
Strong raking compositions are a feature of Sticks and Stones, The Fraenkel gallery’s comprehensively visual catalogue of Friedlander’s architectural photography for their 2004 exhibition of this important group of work. There are 196 square format images that record the specifics of american urban space. People seem to feature only by accident. Individuals are described through the division of city or small town space, the marked out garden boundaries or the high security fences that define an individual property. The imposition of street furniture, poles, signs, lock and control the compositions and our ability to look inside them. The focus on the wasteland, the broken and the abandoned in many of the pictures, reflects the wastefulness and closed down feeling of these privatised but often neglected cityscapes. Even where individual buildings dominate, most often a blank or unwelcoming wall turns ‘homes’ into forbidding ‘fortresses’.
The book layout is a double page with minimum borders, so each square format image reacts to its neighbour – the horizons are angled and do not flow between the two. The packed angular forms, nothing is every straight vertically or horizontally, jar and clash with each other and create a sense of forcefully flattened space, blocked or partioned, access prohibited where it is hard to move forward or access the space depicted.
Somehow some of the captured space of reflected screens as seen in the dark mirror experiment, I want to combine with the contested and excluded spaces of the Brighton Baths or Tynemouth Pool or other more local boundaried spaces.
Anton, S. (2015) Lee Friedlander, The Little Screens. London: After all Books.
Enyeart, J. (2004) Lee Friedlander, Sticks and Stones, Architectural America. Fraenkel Gallery: San Francisco.