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Customer reviews

4.5 out of 5 stars

Friedlander fans need wait no longer, this latest book of 192 square photos confirms that the magic is still there. The photos are totally Friedlander and he delivers a fresh twist by taking them all from the front seat of a car. By using the windscreen and door arch he creates two pictures and in many of them another image courtesy of the door mirror. Actually it's a bit more complex than that because what he photographs outside the car is usually in layers of interest as it recedes from the viewer. The end result is a wonderful collection of shapes, texture, tonal qualities, depth of field and perhaps the most remarkable thing is that the everyday highway landscape in town or country can, in the hands of Friedlander, produce such dazzling images.

The photos were taken between 1992 and 2009, though most are from this century with locations, quite literally, right across the America. There are noticeable themes as you turn the pages: people in the frame on pages 18 to 23; graves 110 to 119; trucks and industry 136 to 149; people again 150 to 157; STOP signs 185 to 191. Some shots, if you strip out the car from the photo, could have come from other Friedlander books. Page 182 is straight out of 'The Desert Seen' or pages 74/75 and 130/131 from his architectural masterpiece 'Sticks & Stones'.

The book follows Friedlander's liking for square format prints (eight and a half inches) and his friends contribute to the book's wonderful look: Thomas Palmer for the separations, Katy Homans for the simple, elegant design and Meridian Printing for their usual immaculate 300 screen duotones.

I've looked through the book several times and the W-O-W factor keeps popping up in my mind as I discover something new in a photo I've looked at over and over. Lee Friedlander delivers his own playful vision yet again throughout these pages.
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on 21 November 2010
Everybody knows how America embraces the automobile. Everbody knows her economy depends on the car. In publishing America by Car Friedlander risks exploiting hackneyed truisms ad nausea and losing the attention of the viewer after the first few images. His project succeeds, however, for two reasons. First, his compositions are clever and precise, with multiple and disparate views within each frame formed by his car's infrastructure. You might imagine in some cases you are looking at three different locations in one shot. Second, he pushes the idea of reliance on the motor car to such a degree that everything is literally viewed from the vehicle's perspective. He embeds the vehicle visually, just as much as it has become embedded culturally. Indeed one can imagine a driver so attached to this car that he rarely steps out of its confines during the entire photographic project, instead simply collecting meals at the local drive thru and sleeping on the back seat.

As if precision of composition is not enough, he has typologised throughout the book, addressing a particular theme across a number of pages. The quality of printing is excellent, with smooth tone and black blacks: very satisfying.

One cannot but dwell on the logistical and technical challenges Friedlander must have faced in framing these shots. Probably he burnt out the clutch. To any casual viewer he would have been a comical sight, an apparently deranged and obsessive character in a car with out-of-state plates, inching his vehicle forward and backward minutely and incessantly under the hot midday sun. Of course, I am assuming that is how he produced his images and we are not duped by the inventiveness of Photoshop, which is an unlikely scenario with this accomplished and purist photographer.

Interestingly he shies away from including himself in any of the mirror's reflections, thereby lending an objectivity to his work. One might argue that he is giving us, the viewer, the opportunity to occupy that driving seat. Then it would be us who drives bleary-eyed state to state, parks up in those parking lots and surveys briefly our evanescent roadside vista.

For those who like serendipity in image composition, this is not the book for you. Perhaps you will tire of Friendlander's clinical approach. Perhaps you would like a more personal account of Friendlander's journey: what he felt and to whom he spoke. There is little emotion in these images. They seem to say: "well folks, this here is your America just the other side of the glass, if you be bothered to get out and take it in your arms"
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