Book Review: Lee Friedlander: Letters From The People

A rather sumptuous looking over-indulgence

I thought this was a bit of an enigma of a book. On the one hand its 88 pages are huge (13.25 by 14.5 inches) with 213 photos beautifully printed in Italy by Amilcare Pizzi using 300 screen tritones but on the other hand the visual contents don't really justify this production opulence. Friedlander's Desert Seen photos would have looked stunning in a book of this size and production.

The editorial format is nicely worked out: the first eighty-seven photos are cropped images of the alphabet in capitals followed by numbers and an ampersand. The rest of the photos are combinations of letters merging into graffiti statements and by their nature these tend to be personal to the scribblers and instantly forgettable to everyone else.

Because the photos are mostly close-ups of the letters the words cannot be read and there is no opportunity to enjoy Friedlander's playful knack of layering a composition into the distance with all sorts of fascinating distractions for the eye.

The contents would have worked equally well in a book a quarter of the page size and the prices charged on the net are as over-indulged as the contents.

Lee Friedlander: Letters From The People is available at Amazon (US | CA | UK | DE | FR | IT | ES | JP | CN) and Book Depository

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You can see how large 'Letters...' is when compared to Lee's latest book.

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'Jail keys made here' with photos by Lee Boltin, from 1959, is not an art photo book but it's full of offbeat signs photographed in the public environment.

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A rather underwhelming title spread.

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