Lee Friedlander

German Artist

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Lee Friedlander: Urban Social Landscapes and Portraits

Lee Friedlander is one of the world’s most celebrated photographers, valued for his work on urban social landscapes and portraits.


Friedlander was born in Aberdeen, Washington, in 1934. By the time Friedlander was 14 years old, he was already learning the basics of photography, earning pocket money through small photography jobs. After graduating from the Art Center College of Design, located in Pasadena, California, Friedlander moved to New York City, where he met and began photographing jazz musicians.

Friedlander primarily took promotional photographs for Atlantic Records, taking iconic portraits of various classic jazz, blues, and country musicians. Some of these photos were used as album covers for the artists’ records. Friedlander also freelanced for Sports Illustrated, and in 1960 received his first Guggenheim grant. The Guggenheim Memorial Foundation granted him two others in 1962 and 1977, and in 1963, Friedlander held his first solo exhibition at the George Eastman House.

While Friedlander continued his work in art photography, he also kept receiving offers for commercial photography for different magazines, including Sports Illustrated and Playboy. In the late 1970s, he took nude black and white photos of Madonna, which were published years later in the 1985 Playboy. Friedlander’s photographs have frequently been exhibited at galleries and museums, including a major retrospective at the Museum of Modern Art in New York.

Friedlander’s Notable Photography

Friedlander is known for his use of black and white film on a Leica 35mm camera; while he has mostly worked in New York City, also did many photography projects in Louisiana and New Orleans, especially while working for jazz musicians and record companies. His portraits of lesser-known artists are also considered valuable, as they have helped provide a visual archive of the genre.

Though his portraits include famous musicians, television personalities, and politicians, a large body of Friedlander’s work also focuses on urban social landscapes and street life. His photographs of small and intimate scenes on ordinary American streets aim to capture the unsettling nature of urban life even in the ordinary. Many of his works use glass reflections, street signs, doors, windows, and street lamps as framing devices and to incorporate abstractions and fragmentations into the composition.

Friedlander’s Market Value

Friedlander’s works are considered very valuable in the market. Most of his photographs sell for at least a few thousand dollars. His female nudes are perhaps the most lucrative. His Madonna portraits have sold for the largest prices; one for $37,500 at Christie’s Art House in 2009, and others for $25,000 on average.

Similarly, his shots of urban streets are also very valuable, often selling for up to five figures. Nashville (1963), which captures a face on a television, sold for $11,000. New York City (1965), which features the back profile of a woman with a man’s shadow on her hair, sold for $12,500.

His landscapes have the least market value. They can cost anywhere from several hundred dollars to a thousand dollars. For instance, New Orleans (1975), a landscape of a tree and a street sign, sold for $950.

Appraise and Sell Lee Friedlander Photography

If you have any works by Lee Friedlander, get in touch with our experts at Revere Auctions. If you would like to sell your Friedlander photographs, you can auction them at our location in St. Paul, Minnesota. We also offer our services online.

You can contact us anytime for a free auction estimate if you want to sell photographs by Lee Friedlander. We have a very simple process. After you send us the photos of the work, our experts will take a look, analyze, and provide you an estimate of the amount the artwork is likely to reach at auction.

If you need an appraisal for Friedlander’s work, we provide a certified appraisal reportthat can be used for estate taxes, donations, and insurance coverage. Our appraisals are compliant with Uniform Standards of Professional Appraisal Practice and are accepted by insurance companies, charity agencies, and the IRS.

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