Lee Friedlander: Stems
Photographs by Lee Friedlander.
In 1994, suffering from aching knees and painfully concerned about it, Lee Friedlander decided to prepare himself for a sedentary life. He began to pursue the still life as a possibility and maybe a way of photographic life--a dramatic shift for a man who has spent his life photographing on the street, in the woods, on the road, at parties, anywhere but sitting down. He tried a variety of subjects with a few good results, but nothing stood out until he began to look at the fresh flowers that his wife Maria placed around their home in cut-glass vases. But never mind the flowers. True to Friedlander's style, he very quickly found himself most interested in the stems. During the months of February, May, June and December of 1994, he focused his lens on wild arrays of stems and the optical splendor produced by light refracting through the glass vases that contained them. In 1998, Friedlander had both of his knees surgically replaced. Three months of recovery time passed during which he took no pictures, the only gap in almost 50 years of working. The next year, successfully rehabilitated and walking without pain, Friedlander decided to re-apply himself to the stems and finish them off as a subject. Published in a lush, oversize volume, printed with a special dry trap process, Stems is the result of this unusual saga in the photographer's career. Lee Friedlander and his camera have now returned to the street.