In writing about this book, I don’t attempt to discuss the photographs as photographs per se; I’m neither critic nor historian. But I cannot escape the fact that well over half my life has been lived under the medium’s umbrella. When Richard B. Woodward wrote on Lee in the 1989 Artnews, he referred to a photograph from 1970, taken in a Las Vegas motel room [this photo], of me standing in a block of light against a dark wall, with Lee’s shadow imposed on my body. For him the picture read “as a portrait of a marriage in which Lee’s photography has overshadowed both their lives.” In a way, all of these photographs, not just that one, were formed because photography did indeed overshadow all four of our lives. Lee can never stop looking, seeing, as the photographer he is, and his camera is never far from his hand. So during all our family moments, outdoors or sitting around our home, eating, reading, listening to music, or even combing our hair or playing with our dogs, all those small things we hardly thought about, Lee was always seeing something that in an instant he might need to frame and record.
Maybe this is how he handles that part of himself that doesn’t remember past details. He told me that once he has made a picture of something, he can forget the details because he knows he has them on film.
I suspect that this need capture a moment seen only by him is now intensely ingrained in his persona. It started as he entered his teen years and he has never moved away from it, has actually grown into it more. Why this has happened I can only guess; maybe its his way of becoming more attached to what he sees, maybe having the camera at hand makes him feel more ready to deal with what he sees, maybe he isolates and simplifies the complexity of what he sees, maybe that makes life more manageable for him. What I can say for sure is that he cannot not take photographs.
— Maria Friedlander, “The All of It”, from Family by Lee Friedlander
Photo: Lee Friedlander, Minneapolis [Shadow Self-Portrait on Maria], 1966. via SFMOMA.