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Monday, 02 October 2017
Snapshots of Leisure and Tourism
Laura-Jade Vaughan

Lee Friedlander, Mt Rushmore, South Dakota, 1969, gelatin-silver print. © Lee Friedlander, courtesy of Fraenkel Gallery, San Francisco and Wilson Centre for Photography.

The snapshots of Lee Friedlander capture poignant fleeting moments, characteristic of the fast-paced social changes and new fashions of the 1960s-1980s. His urban street photography holds a mirror back towards society, literally photographing reflections upon glass surfaces that invest everyday moments with greater meaning.

Lee Friedlander’s Mt Rushmore, South Dakota, 1969, is one of my favourite works in States of America. At a glance it is an odd and humorous composition - in the foreground two ordinary-looking tourists consume their surroundings with binoculars and a camera, contrasting with the reflection of Mount Rushmore towering above them in the background. Possessing the feel of a holiday snap, the humble image offers many more layers of social critique.

Mt Rushmore is hung among other Friedlander works also exploring the theme of leisure. Retro scenes of fun fairs, drive-in cinemas and ice-cream parlours represent a booming new industry, all about carefree abandon and self-indulgence. The introduction of mass advertising sells a lifestyle, inviting imitation – for instance, in other Friedlander images women are seen replicating the pin-up girl fashion, also resembling a billboard advert for Pepsi Cola. As well as commentary on this new social phenomenon, Friedlander seems to be interested in this new way of viewing the world that is about repetition and replication.

Friedlander shows us that a visit to Mount Rushmore might be a pilgrimage to celebrate national identity in a historically significant site, but in the foreground, the tourist experience is about being a part of a recognisable image. In Mt Rushmore, the tourist couple are part of a self-perpetuating cycle - photographing a place as a way to validate an experience and to evidence their social status among friends, and at the same time making a place even more iconic. How much have things changed since the 60s? In our world of selfie sticks and social media, I think not much at all!

Posted by ljvaughan at 15:45


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