On this Black Friday, the day after Thanksgiving, I want to share with you a book appropriate to the spirit of the moment. Well, at least appropriate to my spirit, at this moment: Lee Friedlander’s The New Cars 1964, published earlier this year by the Fraenkel Gallery in San Francisco.
Friedlander was given the assignment of photographing the new model year cars for Harper’s Bazaar.
Two paragraphs from Jeffery Fraenkel’s short introduction capture the essence of the book:
Ansel [Ruth Ansel, one of the two art directors who commissioned the work] says it’s difficult now to comprehend what a Very Big Deal next year’s cars were to Americans of the 1960s, not to speak of Bazaar’s moneyed and highly educated consumers. “Fuel was not a concern. Big was good. Automobiles were icons of glamour and an integral part of the fashionable world. Line, style, color, sleekness; these were same elements that went into the highest levels of fashion at the time. The new cars meant optimism and elegance and the best of what America had to offer.
If Friedlander was aware of this, it’s hard to see it in the photographs he delivered in a yellow box (and on time) to Bazaar that fall. Instead of depicting the cars in seductive locales–next to the Metropolitan Opera House, ‘21’, or the Seagram Building, for example–he had them delivered to parking lots near burger joints, gas stations, cheap furniture stores, downscale beauty parlors, an empty movie drive-in (during the day, no less), and, most ignominiously, a used car lot. With no intent to subvert, Friedlander was already showing potential buyers what their brand new automobile would look like on the resale market. Or, as Lee states it, “I just put the cars out in the world, instead of on a pedestal.”
And so, on this very special day full of very big deals, with no intent to subvert, I recommend to you my favorite book of 2011, Friedlander’s The New Cars 1964.
Buy it directly from the Fraenkel Gallery (I’m guessing they get to keep a little bit more of your money if you buy direct).
Or buy from Amazon (where I get to keep a little bit of your money).