Lee Friedlander’s exploration of one of photography’s most enduring genres began almost by chance, in the late 1970s, when a teacher colleague at Rice University in Houston lined up a regular schedule of nude models for his students. Almost immediately, Friedlander found that he preferred to photograph the models at their homes, and ingeniously deployed household objects such as bedside lamps, potted plants and sofa fabrics to play off against the angular poses of the models and the emphatic framing of the overall composition. Friedlander’s nudes show every blemish, every contour that makes each body unique, while his flash often serves to counter this realism with a softening effect that often recedes the body’s shadow right up to its outline. With the publication of Friedlander’s nude portraits of Madonna (prints of which fetch huge sums), the series became among the photographer’s best known work, and eventually saw publication in 1991, from Jonathan Cape. Lee Friedlander: The Nudes significantly expands on the Cape edition (itself long out of print), with a total of 84 nudes, plus a new layout and design by Katy Homans and new separations by Thomas Palmer. As such, it offers the most lavish presentation of this key series in Friedlander’s massive oeuvre.
Lee Friedlander (born 1934) first came to public attention in the landmark exhibition New Documents, at The Museum of Modern Art, New York, in 1967. More than 40 books about his work have been published since the early 1970s, including Self-Portrait, Sticks and Stones, Cherry Blossom Time in Japan, Family, America by Car, People at Work, The New Cars 1964 and Mannequin. His career was the focus of a major traveling retrospective organized by The Museum of Modern Art in 2005.