Lee Friedlander’s “The American Monument” Book Rediscovered in Library

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Acquisitions Librarian Susan Raidy-Klein made a surprising discovery recently among a stash of books separated from the general stacks and designated for review:  a copy of photographer Lee Friedlander’s book “The American Monument,” published by Eakins Press in 1976.   This publication, which is a first edition, was issued in a limited edition of 2,000 copies, plus smaller editions of special, deluxe, signed and artist-reserve copies.   It was supported by a grant from the National Endowment for the Arts, and is made up of 77  12 x 17 inch pages containing  213 black-and-white reproductions printed by The Meriden Gravure Company on heavy cream paper stock.   Covered by a special blue binding, it  was designed so that individual sheets could be removed and exhibited.  The photograph above is plate number 4, “Father Duffy. Times Square. New York, New York.”

Lee Friedlander was born on July 14, 1934 in Aberdeen, Washington.   He owned his first camera at an early age, and by age sixteen also owned an enlarger, picking up local photography work when he could.  He graduated from high school in 1952, and set out to study photography at the Art Center College of Design in Pasadena, California.  In 1956 he moved to New York City, where he photographed jazz musicians for album covers.  In the 1960s and 1970s Friedlander evolved “an influential and often imitated visual language of urban ‘social landscape,’ with many of his photographs including fragments of store-front reflections, structures framed by fences, posters and street signs.”  A description by the publisher of The American Monument states that: “in an environment dominated by menacing speed, instability, advertising and television, the American monument plays a meditative role. A grace of intention shines through the oft times awkward alliance of efforts that produced them. They are redeemed by the confidence they express in the worth of the act memorialized. In this album the viewer and the viewed hold each other in balance. A world buried alive in our midst is unearthed to us. The photographer has brought it to us to see.”

The American Monument will be on view with other photography  books in the Claire T. Carney Library Archives and Special Collections exhibit case on the first floor of the main library during the month of December, 2015.  Before and after that time it may be viewed in the Archives and Special Collection’s Prince Henry Society of Massachusetts Reading Room on the quad side of the library, by requesting call number E159 .F74 1976.

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