After my previous article dedicated to a great master of the straight photography, Walker Evans, you can find here my tribute to a contemporary master: Lee Friedlander, a careful observer of the American social landscape.
I love to photograph outdoors. Joyful people, public events, and urban details. In this article, the second of a series, I want to give a little tribute to one of the most interesting contemporary artists, a keen observer of social reality and of the transformation of the urban landscape: Lee Friedlander. After an article dedicated to the master of straight photography Walker Evans, this is the time to share with you some ideas I took from the masterpieces of Friedlander. He does a wise use of poles and obstacles to split the compositions in more parts, to induce the observer to investigate in deep the contents of the image. Its black and white photos are able to restore some order in the urban chaos, with an awesome combination of many elements, both urban and naturals. Even the reflections in the shop windows are used to multiply the points of interest, and to invite the viewer to decipher the complexity of reality, represented in many details and overlay planes.
1. THE BRIDGE OF BASSANO. I took this first photo at Bassano del Grappa, Italy. The column of the bridge breaks the composition in two parts, dividing the river below it. This bridge was destroyed many times, the last time in the World War II. This photo is a warning against all wars, always a source of division among men.
2. OUTDOOR BAR, COMO. Often, the people sitting in the bar talk only with table companions, and they seldom interact or familiarize themselves with neighbors. The fountain in the foreground breaks the groups of the clients into several parts, and highlights the fragmentation of today’s highly individualized society.
3. IN AND OUT. A contrast between a slide show in a photo club in Cantu and the car parking outside the building.
4. CLIMBING UP TO BRUNATE. An images taken inside the cable railway from Como to Brunate, with the obstacles of the window of the vehicle in the foreground to break the view.
5. TOURISTS IN A CLOISTER. An old image that I took in Spain many years ago. The interior of the cloister was made more interesting by separating the tourists present in multiple images, thanks to the obstacle in the foreground
6. ICE CREAM SHOP, MILAN. “We do it in front of everyone” (“Noi lo facciamo davanti a tutti” in Italian language). This is the phrase written on the girl’s shirt. Instead, I made a picture from behind, with overlapping planes in the shop window, and with the customers and the girl in the background!
7. NEON ART, MILAN. A beautiful piece of contemporary art in the “Museum of ’900” is placed in the foreground. In the background you can see “Piazza Duomo” and the “Galleria Vittorio Emanuele the Second”, the oldest shopping mall in Italy, built between 1865 and 1877.
8. PIAZZA DELLA REPUBBLICA, MILAN. Four different planes. Advertisement in the foreground, a bicycle, a couple of lovers, and the buildings of the square in the background.
9. IN THE CAGE. Football time in Como. An unusual point of view rich of obstacles.
10. CAR OR TRAIN? Here, the train is the obstacle. In its windows there are reflected many cars, in a very busy street. Do you prefer car or train? I use the train, all the times I can!
11. STOP AT RED SIGNAL. Again, the train as an obstacle. Here I made a partial double exposure (I made a first exposure, then I advanced the 120 film roll of only half frame).
12. TREES AND RUINS, AGRIGENTO. This tree hidden the ruins of the Temple Valley of Agrigento. As in many photos of Friedlander, I choose here a natural element as a barrier.
13. RED FLAG, BAIA DOMIZIA. The image is split in two parts. In the left side there are some people walking on the beach shore, while in the right side there are some people swimming and bathing in the sea.
14. WINDOW SHOP. A windows shop in Milan, with many levels of spotlights.
Sometimes, we do some cropping to delete obstacles in our images. But, with a little of patience, you can use the poles, the obstacles and other “disturbing elements” in a creative way!