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
2001.22.52
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.

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