A collection of 38 photographs by Aberdeen native and renowned photographer Lee Friedlander sold for $850,000 at auction at Sotheby’s in New York last week.
Born in Aberdeen in 1934, Friedlander graduated from Aberdeen High School in 1952 and pursued a degree in photography at the Art Center College of Design in Pasadena, Calif., before moving to New York City in 1956. He was awarded a Guggenheim Fellowship in 1960 and a MacArthur Fellowship in 1990. He is considered one of the premier modern photographers.
“Friedlander is one of the most important America artists of any kind since World War II,” according to a Time Magazine piece in 2005.
The 84-year-old’s Little Screen collection that was auctioned features photos of small television screens showing a number of different scenes.
Sotheby’s auction catalog explained the collection this way: “Lee Friedlander’s Little Screens photographs capture the growing ubiquity of television in post-war America and offer deadpan comic commentary on the vacuity of popular culture. Taken between 1961 and 1970, in locales ranging from Galax, Virginia, to Washington state, each photograph includes ... a television set illuminated with flickering moments of entertainment, advertising, or politics. Like the best of Friedlander’s photographs, the Little Screens images initially appear off-hand and casual. Examined more closely – and seen together as a series – they reveal a depth of sophistication.”
Images from the series were first published, along with text by his friend and mentor Walker Evans, in the February 1963 issue of Harper’s Bazaar. Friedlander’s previous auction record was $84,000, when a set of 15 prints were auctioned at Sotheby’s in 2005, according to artnet.com.
Friedlander’s work has been exhibited at the Museum of Modern Art, the Metropolitan Museum of Art and the George Eastman House.
A piece on the website of the Museum of Contempory Photraphy in Chicago, said he began photographing in 1948 because of a “fascination with the equipment.” His first paid job was a Christmas card photograph of a dog, taken for an Aberdeen madam named Peggy Plus, the piece claims.
While in high school, Friedlander worked at Garrett’s Camera Center in downtown Aberdeen. In a Daily World story in 1989, Frank Garrett said, “Lee was so crazy about photography that every day, right after school he came right down to the store. I figured the best thing to do was to give him a job. He worked there a couple of summers and even built a glassfront case for the store up in shop class at high school.
Garrett recalled that Friedlander’s father, Fritz, a timber broker, was worried about the boy’s future. “He told me he wanted Lee to get ‘this camera business’ out of his head so he could amount to something. But Lee just had a one-track mind to take pictures. When he was about 13, he kept hounding me to get him into the Grays Harbor Camera Club. I said, ‘Lee, that’s for adults.’ But finally I talked to the guys and we said, ‘Well, let’s let him in.’ Within six months, his pictures were as good or better than ours — and there were a lot of good photographers in that club.”