Outspoken, individual, and the very best at what he does.
To see Friedman's images is to embark on a journey through America, but with an emphasis on the anarchic and the radical left of centre, the sublime and the beautiful.
He tries at every corner to speak about the realities in a multi-idealist continent, but to do so with a large dose of honesty. Particularly works, shot on the East and West coasts, which charted the rise of Hip Hop and its gun culture in such a way as to inform us, not frighten. The energetic frames from Black Flag, Fugazi, and the raging American punk scene could be almost a document on an unfound region.
The work is simply overwhelming in its attitude and detail, from the very early DogTown skateboard shots to his new music work with further true greats Run DMC, Beastie Boys, and Public Enemy, right up to his new offering, 'Recognize', which is a complete departure from the early work and a back- to- basics for him, asking simple questions about important thoughts.
Continuing to surprise and make available an extensive collection of work in published book format, it's time Friedman was listed alongside Capa, Bresson, and Avedon.
1. Are the details of the world important to you / are you almost trying to record everything possible, rediscovering?
Absolutely the details of the world are important to me as they should be to every human, and I am Absolutely NOT trying to record everything possible. Discovery is important, understanding more so. Inspiring more so than that, once you have understanding.
2. Did you know at that time when shooting the likes of the early Black Flag, Public Enemy, Fugazi and especially the original skateboard culture work, that you were in the middle of something definitive?
Definitive? I don't think that would be the word, but, indeed, I believed I was surrounding myself with culture that was inspiring tome, and I, of course, wanted to pass that inspiration on, and in turn,inspire further understanding and rebellion against politically conservative thinking and ideals... I mean, really, I thought these things that I was shooting at the time should have great influence; it usually just did not happen as quickly or in as timely a fashion as one would have thought, but I guess it was all just moving so fast it took the rest of the society that long to just try and catch on or catch up.
3. You said before that boredom drove you to taking photos, have you accomplished everything?
It was not boredom, I never said that! It was the subject matter that drove me to take photos, and the fact that I was not seeing what was going on before my very own eyes, being portrayed as accurately as I would have hoped it would be, so I took it upon myself to do so. Accomplished everything? Hell no, there's as much selfishness and greed, and perhaps more ignorance in the U.S. than ever. So not by along shot have I accomplished everything. We all need to keep pushing in whatever ways each of us is capable of improving the human condition in our own lives and others.
4. You consider yourself and artist? Has it been more difficult getting accepted as a photographer rather than say a painter / fine artist?
Yes, I do consider myself an artist, but getting accepted as such is not the goal, I just am. Acceptance? What the fuck is that? One just does these things and perhaps hopes that people will understand what one is trying to communicate, but acceptance I don't really know...I guess I could be considered 'accepted' as a photographer, because people see I create photographs, but that does not mean anything, it's just a label they use for convenience, to be able to label me when they need to. I enjoy my artistic perspective, my aesthetic drives me everyday to do what I do, from cleaning around the house to making books and taking pictures when I'm inspired to do so. Acceptance as a fine artist? That would be nice I guess,but I don't really understand what that all means...
5. Do you think, at the time you shoot certain work that you can effect 'change' as a photographer yourself ? Have you ever set out to do this?
Yes, of course, you can effect change as a creative artist or news photographer. Images open people's eyes and change their minds, or inspire new thinking on occasion, and what is this if not change and effecting it. Of course a photographer can effect change, it's possible. How wide spread that is remains another question though. But that's what art is meant to do in my opinion --to be pleasing to the eye first, but to inspire and tell a story as well, in hopes of effecting some sort of change, at least that of one's perspective.
6. Do you think 'photography' has changed the world's perception of America?
Photography alone? I have no idea, but all of those arts and sciences related to photography indeed - movies, television, all kinds of imagery expose people to America if they have not had the experience first hand, so undoubtedly it's had some effect on the perception around the world. But honestly, still photos less than the moving ones in my lifetime.
7. If you couldn't take photographs, what would you do instead?
I'm a creative person with a loud mouth and lots of ideas, I could be into design of some kind, politics is a part of every moment of life for me too, so that could perhaps be pursued further. I can most likely be used as a consultant of some kind I guess, maybe teach something somewhere?
8. Lately your work has definitely become more political, is this true, or has this always been the case, can you write about this?
It's always been political to some degree, certainly more obvious in some cases than others. But there's always been a political undercurrent in everything I do, and really in most things everyone does whether she realizes it or not. Even being apathetic is political, eating food you buy can be political, voting is political, as well as not voting (although I think the former is more effective).My political slant is toward the progressive, the left, the more radical, but still organized. I'm always into promoting this perspective in everything, from what I eat (Vegan); to how I care about the environment, protesting all wars in the world ; and supporting others, who have similar ideals,who educate the public; to how I preach to anyone who cares, to listen or check into my thoughts,on-line like this, or in print in magazines or my own publications and other artistic expressions.
One of the proudest projects of my life was the LIBERTY STREET PROTEST, just over a year ago,and it had nothing to do with my photography! Have you heard of that? I placed huge signs of peace and other statements in the windows of a building that is directly across the street from where the "World Trade Center" towers once stood and people still visit every day. Check this out: www.southern.com/BURNINGFLAGS/libertystreet_protest.php
9. In your newest offering, 'Recognize' asks us to see the world in a completely different perspective,Why did you centre your ideas on clouds? What's the significance?
There were many reasons to be centered on clouds. First of all because clouds are absolutely universal to the condition of the entire planet, there is not one person on the planet who can not relate in some way to clouds, I don't think there is anything as universal as clouds.
There are not two that are alike, just like snowflakes, so every single image would be different and never be able to be duplicated. As well, I concentrated on a perspective from within them (the clouds) for the most part, and not in relation to how we humans normally observe them. This is some truly unique shit going down. Texture, composition, light, and perspective all come into play in a big way, I was trying to incorporate everything that is great about photography as an art, at its base,all at once. And did I mention the "heavenly" aspect for those who may believe in such things?
As I said in another interview recently : Roughly 'Recognize' is the document of the mission I have been on for the last 5 years. I'm very excited about the unique beauty of the world and the planet in all its forms, and more often than not, I'm very UN-inspired by what people call art these days. I'm really just trying to bring people back to the basics, recognizing beauty for what it is. It's not only about that reaction; I felt I had a responsibility to do it! In order to help "re-align the visual aesthetic" of the younger generation and of the culture on a whole, which to me it seems to have been dumbed down over the last 15 years or so.
With this I'm trying to bring it back to the base, 'start at the beginning' as they say. I'm hoping to open people's eyes all over again. I guess it's kind of a continuation of the ideas set forth in my book 'The Idealist', but just concentrating on one subject and taking it to the hilt. You know on a more social level it's artistically relevant. This is meant to really arouse and wake some dead brains up. This one is more of a proclamation in its relevance to art and photography and my perspective on things, I really wanted to surprise some of the skeptics. But really it is something that I hope inspires people. I really love it and I'm really excited about it and the possibilities and impact it may have on the relevance of vision in art and in general. But you never know when you do something like this, it may go way over everyone's heads (no pun intended). But I just had to do it. You may think nothing of it!
I think you have to see it yourself and decide, it's pretty heavy and very light all at the same time.
10. Who would you like to work with that you haven't already, anything coming up we should know about?
At the moment no one I can think of. In the past 30 years there have been moments in time where I've missed shooting some people who I would have liked to, but not just now.
I don't take pictures 'day in and day out', that's probably how I stay inspired to do so when I do, or at least one of the reasons. I don't want to get burnt out shooting all the time, even when it seems like I can. The inspiration always comes from the subjects or ideas that pop into my head. It's a really simple, clear, clean, process, nothing artificial. Whether it's no money or big money.
As I said, I don't have a 'to do' or 'wish list' of subjects at this point in time. I just wake up and start doing what needs to be done for that day, week, month, or year and try to get through it all, one step at a time. Because of the nature of over-saturation of media these days in our lives, the urgency of my own art and communications can change every day. At the moment I can't think of who I want to work with, or who is inspiring me to create a photograph. Some of those things I may want to do are being done by others so rarely do I see a need nowadays to go and do something that someone else is doing. But when it's urgent enough, and inspiring enough, you can bet you last Euro I will. Indeed there are things that people are already doing sometimes that I think can be done better, and if I'm so inspired and can create the opportunity, I'll show 'em how.