Lee Friedlander’s unsentimental photographs of the American social landscape gained widespread recognition in the landmark New Documents photography show at the Museum of Modern Art. Organized by John Sarkowski in 1967 and featuring work by Friedlander, Diane Arbus, and Garry Winogrand, the show defined a new introspective style that would influence documentary photography for the subsequent fifty years. In recognition of the show's importance, the Museum of Modern Art recently featured “New Documents” as one of its 52 most notable exhibitions.
The image often summarizing Friedlander’s participation in New Documents is a self portrait: A picture of the artist’s shadow projected on a New York City pedestrian. Friedlander began creating self portraits in the late 1950s, and they have been a central practice throughout the artist’s seventy year long career. Often, as in Rapid City, Friedlander exploits what may conventionally be called photographic mistakes, including himself and his camera as a shadow or small mirrored reflection.