National Gallery of Art - THE COLLECTION
image of Self-Portrait Lee Friedlander (artist)
American, born 1934
Self-Portrait, 1964-1969
gelatin silver print
image: 13.3 x 19.8 cm (5 1/4 x 7 13/16 in.) mount: 27.9 x 35.6 cm (11 x 14 in.)
Trellis Fund
Not on View
From the Tour: Modern Portraits in Photography
Object 12 of 13

Lee Friedlander (born 1934) began his career taking portraits of jazz musicians for Atlantic Records in the mid-1950s. By the end of the next decade Friedlander's dry, deceptively casual shots of contemporary America—store windows, signs, pedestrians, and self-portraits—had been consecrated as worthy successors in a photographic lineage associated with the work of Robert Frank and Walker Evans. Friedlander has since explored subjects as varied as the California desert, small-town monuments across America, and female nudes, in each case with an apparently slovenly disregard for composition that masks an ascetic rigor.

As he does in all his many self-portraits from the 1960s, Friedlander here refuses to show himself whole. With willful, deadpan humor, all he gives us to substantiate the title of this work are a pair of shoes and a bit of trouser leg framed in a pawnshop mirror (infinitesimal refractions on a samovar and other appliances stacked here escape the naked eye). By contrast, an elderly window-shopper appears in full view. A tense symmetry subsists between this woman and the photographer, each looking at the corner-store display from opposite sides. By virtue of the many layers of reflection, both seem to be part of the display itself. Friedlander recapitulates with irony a long-standing development in portraiture, a genre fostered by the middle classes, in which people become increasingly interchangeable with their possessions—though neither Friedlander nor his accidental interlocutor seem likely to purchase anything from this store.

Full Screen Image
Artist Information

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