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Jill Freedman
Jill Freedman

Jill Freedman

Country: United States
Birth: 1939 | Death: 2109

Jill Freedman was a highly respected New York City documentary photographer whose award-winning work is included in the permanent collections of the Museum of Modern Art, the International Center of Photography, George Eastman House, the Smithsonian American Art Museum, the New York Public Library, the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, and the Bibliothèque Nationale de France, Paris, among others. She appeared in solo and group exhibitions throughout the world, and contributed to many prominent publications.

Jill Freedman was best known for her street and documentary photography, recalling the work of André Kertész, W. Eugene Smith, Dorothea Lange, and Cartier-Bresson. She published seven books: Resurrection City; Circus Days; Firehouse; Street Cops; A Time That Was: Irish Moments; Jill’s Dogs; and Ireland Ever. Jill Freedman lived and worked on the Upper West Side of New York City.

The Joy of Photography
"When I was seven I found old Life Magazines in the attic. My parents had kept the ones from the war and for a year I used to go up there after school, look at the pictures, cry, then go play softball. When my parents realized that I had found them and how they affected me, they burned them, but it was too late, those pictures had burned into my brain.

Outwardly I was normal, but those images were always with me, and in my dreams. Even now I can see them, the man who had tried to escape the burning barn, the concentration camp. I majored in Sociology in college, then spent a few years traveling around Europe singing for my supper. I’d spend the days wandering around, searching for adventure, meeting all kinds of eccentric characters and loving their stories. When I ran out of money I’d sing again. I settled in New York, got a job, tried to figure out what I wanted to do. Something meaningful, not just work.

I was starting to worry. Then one day I woke up and wanted a camera. I borrowed one. I had never taken a picture before, and as soon as I held it in my hands it felt good. I never had the sense of holding a machine. I read the instructions, went out into the street, shot two rolls, had them developed. I was thunderstruck. It were as though I had been taking pictures for years, but in my head, without a camera. “That’s it,” I said. “I’m a photographer.” What a relief.

Photojournalism was always it for me. Those pictures in the attic had set my course. Those, and all the characters I’d met. To tell a story in the blink of an eye, have it printed so that millions of people could see it and wrap their fish in it, to have my pictures reach people the way those Life magazines had reached me, now that was doing something.

I am self taught. I got a copywriting job to support myself and I started learning, devouring books and looking at good work, walking a lot, and shooting. Those early years were fired with an intensity and passion I had never felt before. I was obsessed and driven. I thought about photography all of the time. And my pictures, if no one else had liked them, it wouldn’t have mattered, I loved them. Sometimes I’d look at them and think, What if I wake up one day and it’s gone? What if it goes away like it came?

With each paycheck I bought equipment and built a darkroom and when I finally made my first print, I was hooked for good. It was the first time that I had ever finished something I had started. My father used to say, “You blow hot and cold.” But it was magic, watching it come up in the developer. I still feel it. I worked hard, learning my craft.

I like to work two ways, either on a specific idea or just wandering around, getting lost, snapping. Eventually, all the wanderings go together, and then I find out what I’ve been doing.

Photography is magic. You can stop time itself. Catch slivers of moments to savor and share time and again. Tell beautiful silver stories, one photo alone, or many playing together to form a book. A photograph is a sharing, it says “Hey, look at this!”, it’s a miracle, is what it is. And when you’re going good and you get a new picture you love, there’s nothing better. That’s the joy of photography, and the fun."
-- Jill Freedman

Source: www.jillfreedman.com



Freedman was born in Pittsburgh in 1939 to a traveling salesman and a nurse. After college, she traveled to Israel and England before taking up copywriting jobs in New York to sustain herself. She had not grown up taking photographs, but she said in New York one day she “woke and wanted a camera,” according to an essay she published on her website. She wrote that she was inspired by copies of Life Magazine she had pored over as a child.

Looking back on a photograph from the early years of her career in a 2017 interview with The Guardian, Freedman said activism and protests had been the catalysts for her photography: "I studied sociology and anthropology and now realise that what I’ve been doing with my camera all these years is documenting human behavior. But I was taking pictures in my head long before I became a photographer. It was the Vietnam war that changed everything for me. I was angry and wanted to photograph anti-war demonstrations, so got my first camera."

After her stint in activism, Freedman joined the circus for several months, taking mesmerizing photographs of clowns, chained elephants, and beartamers. Freedman applied a similar level of vigor and rigor to documenting the lives of public servants, photographing intimate moments of firefighters’ and policemen’s work. She followed firefighters in Harlem and the South Bronx for two years at a time women tended to not be allowed in these environments, offering her an unguarded view of their lives. She also took a positive view of cops and thought they faced unfair criticism.

“I set out to deglamorize violence,” Freedman told the New York Times in 2015.

In the 1980s, Freedman started to work less due to health complications, receiving a breast cancer diagnosis in 1988 and breaking her pelvis later. She had hoped to create one last photobook before she died, to be titled Madhattan, and was featured in the street photography documentary Everybody Street (2013), alongside the likes of Bruce Davidson and Joel Meyerowitz. The Steven Kasher Gallery organized an exhibition spanning four decades of her career in 2015 and, in 2017, a show devoted to her Resurrection City photographs.

Source: Artsy

 

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She herself believes that much of her photographic passion and skill was acquired from two aunts who were themselves, enthusiastic photographers, constantly taking pictures through the 1940s, 50s, and 60s, which now Paris herself keeps carefully stored in a collection of show boxes adapted for the purpose. Paris began taking photographs seriously around 1967. She was influenced by the work of Edvard Munch, Max Beckmann, Francis Bacon, and Werner Held. Between 1967 and 1968 she worked in the photo laboratory of Walli Baucik. Her first freelance job, in 1969, was to photograph slaughtering at a home in Thüringen; in 1970 she shot fashion photographs for the youth magazine neues leben. In 1972 she joined the National Association of Visual Artists, which was virtually a prerequisite for success in what was now her chosen career. Her professional work is wide-ranging. In 1975 she photographed scenes from productions by Benno Besson at the Berlin Volksbühne ("People's Theatre"). She presented her first personal exhibition in 1978, in Dresden at the Fine Arts Academy. By the 1980s her work was concentrated increasingly on people and streetscapes, initially in Berlin where many of her subjects were neighbours and friends. She encountered greater difficulty when undertaking an equivalent project in Halle where the people she photographed were strangers and reacted with hostility. She then took time to talk to people and ask before photographing them. Under those circumstances, citizens of Halle agreed to be photographed, though there was still reluctance to be photographed with Halle streets as background at a time when a major and long-running redevelopment project scheme involving extensive destruction of old houses was leaving the centre of the city looking badly damaged. Her 1986 exhibition Buildings and Faces: Halle 1983-1985, planned for the city's Marktschlößchen Gallery was cancelled a few days before the scheduled opening date because her pictures gave publicity to the city's misguided building policy. By the time it was cancelled a catalogue and exhibition labels for the photographs had already been printed. Her career as a free-lance photographer survived the changes of 1989/90 which led to the end of the German Democratic Republic, formally in October 1990 with German reunification, and for some commentators and others her photographs from the East German period have gained a wider interest as the period they depict has receded into history. Since 1996 Helga Paris has been a member of the Berlin Academy of Arts. In 2003 her twelve-part exhibition Self images 1981-1988 in the context of the Art in the German Democratic Republic exhibition drew much interest.Source: Wikipedia Buildings and Faces “I’ll take Halle” was Helga Paris’s spontaneous reaction when, at a meeting with colleagues and artists in East Berlin in the early 1980s, fellow photographer Arno Fischer came up with the idea of photographing East Germany systematically as photographers had done in the 1930s and 1940s for the Farm Security Administration on behalf of the US government. Helga Paris rose to the challenge and began to document Halle on her own initiative. The self-taught photographer had previously carried out several photo stories on themes relating to urban and neighborhood life as part of a personal project. She drove from East Berlin to Halle many times between 1983 and 1985. As her daughter lived there at the time, she had developed an affinity to the town. Helga Paris was fascinated by the endangered former beauty of the buildings and considered it her duty to preserve it in pictures before it disappeared completely. She decided to photograph Halle as if it were a “foreign town in a foreign country”. In doing so, she looked at it through the eyes of an explorer, who is inspired and galvanized by a new environment. She started off taking snapshots of urban life, focusing on streets with houses and passers-by. However, the local people, who felt exposed in their “everyday misery”, did not always react favorably. This prompted her to reconsider her approach and eventually to divide the project into portraits of buildings and portraits of people. Helga Paris consciously limited the moment between making contact with her subjects and pressing the shutter to ensure that their gazes were as open as possible. As a result, they seem to be poised in the very second in which they briefly pause for the photographer, but have not yet engaged mentally with the photographic situation. At the time, Halle was primarily putting money into building modern apartments, and the old town center offered a desolate picture with crumbling facades, including those of listed buildings, half-untiled roofs, and ramshackle roads and squares. All this is revealed in Helga Paris’s photographs in high-contrast black-and-white, although it was never her intention to denounce the state of things. However, the SED party leadership found that the picture of the town conveyed in Helga Paris’s images was too negative. As a result, she was barred from opening her exhibition Buildings and Faces at the last minute. Not until 1990, after German reunification, was it allowed to be shown in Halle.Source: Deutsche Börse Photography Foundation
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