Review by Douglas Stockdale •
A densely packed urban environment can overwhelm the senses. The noisy buzz of activity, the jostling sea of humanity amidst a vast variety of aromas permeating the air. Can a single image effectively distill this urban chaos for a viewer? As an ardent street photographer, Ellen Friedlander found that one documentary style photograph is seemingly inadequate to convey a profound sense of a densely packed urban environment. Friedlander began to experiment with multi-image scenarios to ‘extend’ the potential reading, which provided a closer approximation to her experiences. She states “My process is one of simultaneous observation and reflection, and also integrated with elements of disruption…my style is fueled by a curiosity and a commitment to a multiple point of view…”
This photographic framing appeared to be ideally suited to her experiences while living in Hong Kong and subsequent relocation to Los Angeles, another densely packed and active urban environment.
Her artist book, Extended Frame, is a collection of poetic urban stories, in that each of her extended frames functions as a self-sustaining mini-narrative. Her subjects appear very familiar until she subsequently places these into a new context, which results in a series of beguiling mysteries. The complexity of these juxtapositions causes the reader to pause and delve deep into the content to sort out the various possible meanings and attempt to understand the intent of each narratives.
One of the advantages of the tight framing of her urban street photograph is the inclusion of many edges to work with as she constructs her poetic assemblages. Her compositions are a kaleidoscope of colors, shapes and textures, a combination of portraits and places that attempt to resemble the ensuing chaotic events that are swirling about her. The resulting panoramic images are slices of activities that visually play off and complement each other while providing a slight sense of disorientation. The viewpoint that shifts from section to section across the frame is intriguing and requires an active reading.
Friedlander’s panoramic images do not appear to have an apparent hard and fast rule in the layout of her multi-image panels. In fact, for many of these juxtapositions, it can be difficult to determine the transitional boundaries of the composited image. It is this visual ambiguity that draws the viewer into her narratives. It is the ability of a keen observer to be able to distill evolving urban events to create a type of poetic theater that captures a sense of urban vibrancy.
The use of the metal o-wire twin loop binding ensures that the resulting elongated book has an ability to lay absolutely flat. There is one panoramic image per page spread, with a caption on the facing page and each of her wide images has a border of white margin that provides an enjoyable reading experience.
Extended Frame, Ellen Friedlander
Photographer: Ellen Friedlander, born Utica, NY and resides Los Angeles, California
Self-published, Los Angeles, California, copyright 2019
Afterword: Ellen Friedlander
Stiff-covers, metal wire-O twin loop binding, digital lithography, 5 ½” x 14”, printed and bound by IPS Direct Marketing Agency (Rancho Cucamonga, CA), Edition of 100, signed and numbered artist books.
Photobook Designer: Rick Albertson & Ellen Friedlander
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