Fathers and Photographers: Friedlander Framed by Coen at the Fraenkel Gallery

Artistic Lineage and Family

My own dear old dad, rest his soul, never took a single photograph for all I know. As much as I love him, and that is beyond measure, he’s not where I got my passion for writing with light. In fact, my affinity for photography blossomed late as an artist, only eclipsing painting as my dominant visual medium in my 30s. I got it from making photographs and studying the work of other photographers, Lee Friedlander among the top of the list.

Photography as Art

Two of my favorite forms of Fine Art Photography include portraits and street photography. Lee Friedlander is an undeniable master of both. His portraits of his wife Maria are among the best photos in art history. This is due to the quality of light, composition, and tones, but, more importantly, for the quality of love. Friedlander teaches us how irreplaceable this human value is in art.

Frish and Fraenkel

Frish Brandt and Jeffrey Fraenkel are two of the creative forces behind this amazing gallery, and they have helped to foster an artistic heritage of contemporary photography in San Francisco for decades. They represent a roster of artists, many of whom I learned about from Norman Locks, one of my mentors and artistic fathers, at UCSC. Friedlander is one of the artists who can teach us about photography with his work.

Coen and Co.

As I was standing in the crowded gallery soaking in the excitement of the event, a man explained (presumably to his wife), “I was parking the fucking car.” He looked at me and said: “I’m sorry, I meant to say that I was parking the car.”

“I liked the first version better.”

“Ok then. I was trying to park in fucking San Francisco.” His wife had taken the keys he was holding out and left to another area of the room.

“Well, they’ve been waiting for you to give your speech.”

“Ok, thank you. What city am I in again?”

It was the highlight of the day for me as I realized that the man who had my kind of humor was, I’m pretty sure, Joel Coen’s father. He proceeded to find his son and I snapped a couple of photos of the pair standing together looking like two versions of the same man.

Frances’ Request

In the next room there played a slide show of the work. I took a photo of the group gazing at the frames without realizing that among them was the actress Frances McDormand. She was moving around the room being charming and hospitable as she greeted friends and introduced them to her other friends. She was the person who introduced Joel Coen to Lee Friedlander and made this exhibition possible. As she was talking to someone next to me, a man came up to her and said: “Excuse me, but my wife is a big fan and would love to take a photo with you.”

“Oh my goodness, that’s so sweet but I don’t take photos. Where is she, though? I’d love to meet her.”

She proceeded to engage with the couple connecting with them on a human level with beauty and grace. Later, looking through my photos I found that I had inadvertently captured her in a photo. Instead of including that image, I decided to write this brief portrait of her.

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