Apples and Olives.
Photographs by Lee Friedlander.
Fraenkel Gallery, San Francisco, 2005. 65 pp., 55 duotone illustrations, 9¾x10½".
Apples and Olives is an absolutely lovely photobook;
sumptuously printed, elegantly designed (with the colorful
endpages that Friedlander and designer Katy Homans
are known for) and, above all, filled with singularly amazing
images. But when it comes down to it, Lee Friedlander
is a difficult photographer to talk about. As last year’s
massive MoMA catalogue illustrates, he has traversed the
photographic landscape rather thoroughly, moving from
editorial work to street photography to any number of
personal projects, almost all of which have culminated in
a book. The images in Apples and Olives come as direct
offspring of a vision that was first realized in The Desert
Seen and then again in Self-Portrait (from 2000, not the
groundbreaking 1970 monograph), but that was most
ascendant in Sticks & Stones. Throughout his career,
Friedlander has consistently used specific subject matter
(like the urban landscape, or the desert, or apple and olive
trees) to explore the flat picture plane. More specifically, in
the four aforementioned books, it is a square, black-andwhite,
photographic two-dimensionality that he is playfully
yet sophisticatedly concerned with. Friedlander is a
master of creating unity out of diverse shapes and tones
in the two-dimensional picture plane. On this level, the
subject matter is arbitrary and irrelevant. The work, however,
is not. DARIUS HIMES
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