meet an artist mondayEllen Friedlander’s photography manifests through both documentarian and interpretive impulses, influenced as much by the greats of 20th century street photography as by surrealist, cinematic and constructivist visual narrators. Her imaginative pattern-based street constructions have the ring of truth, while her mysterious and thoughtful landscapes and portraits have a vision of connectedness with nature and each other. The recombinant investigations of her happenstance speak also to her sense of responsibility to the future. Friedlander’s new video project “Know Hope, Know Dreams” with Artists 4 Peace is a melodic composition of landscape photographs interwoven with emotional portraits conveying the necessity of global compassion.

L.A. WEEKLY: When did you first know you were an artist? 

ELLEN FRIEDLANDER: I knew that art was my passion as young as 5 years old when my mother enrolled me in a painting class at the Munson-Williams-Proctor Arts Institute in Utica, NY, where I grew up. I was always my happiest when I was dancing or making art as a child but it was at 16 when my artistic path became clearer. My father gave me my first camera, an Olympus OM2n and from then on I became consumed with this visual outlet that allowed me to channel my creative energy more directly. I’ve spent the last 45 years developing myself and my craft, and I finally feel like I have something to say and have the visual vocabulary to express it.

ellen friedlander photography

Ellen Friedlander: Curtain Call

What is your short answer to people who ask what your work is about? 

It is hard for any artist to be put in a box, and my work I feel really exemplifies that as I listen to my creative flow. My work is a visual diary of the places and experiences I see before me. Using a variety of in-camera and post processing techniques of layering, cutting and assemblage of new visual narratives, I reveal the unpredictable, idiosyncratic, inscrutable nature of the human condition.

 

What would you be doing if you weren’t an artist? 

I see no alternative path for myself.

 

Did you go to art school? Why/Why not? 

I have a BFA in Studio Art with a minor in Photography from Ithaca College. Ithaca is known for their communications school and the photography professors were extraordinary, along with my fellow classmates. After college, I did not have the financial means to seek out a dedicated MFA program so I focused on working for commercial photographers in every city that I lived in and throughout the last 40 years.

Ellen Friedlander: Barbed City

Why do you live and work in L.A., and not elsewhere? 

I never saw myself living in L.A. I moved to the United States in 2010 after living in Hong Kong for 15 years. I was in Orange County when both my kids left the nest, and I found myself alone in Santa Ana. I had no community there, and so sold my house in 2018 and spontaneously moved to L.A. and it has been the best decision of my life.

 

When was your first show? 

My work launched into the ‘real’ world just before the pandemic when I had a photograph showcased in Kristine Schomaker’s Perceive Me traveling exhibition. At the same time, I also had four works from my Betrayal: Shattered in a Moment project displayed in a group show at LACP [Los Angeles Center of Photography]. During the pandemic I was able to produce a tremendous amount of work and this past March (2021) I had my first solo show at the Photographer’s Eye Gallery in Escondido, which featured my series The Extended Frame: A Collection of Urban Stories.

Ellen Friedlander, from the Extended Frame series

When is/was your current/most recent/next show or project? 

I most recently had my short film “Know Hope, Know Dreams,” featured on Artists 4 Peace — an International artist online collective with a mission of contributing to “world peace and sustainability by creating opportunities for meaningful communication and innovative collaborations across the world.” The film was created in collaboration with my daughter Alexi Butts, as well as music by my dear friend MB Gordy and Don Daily.

 

What artist living or dead would you most like to show or work with? 

If I could work with anyone right now living, I would absolutely love to collaborate with JR. JR is changing the world using his art, and that is exactly my mission too.

Ellen Friedlander: Betrayal

Do you listen to music while you work? If so what? 

I love music, but can’t focus with any kind of background noise. I work in silence listening to my own dialogue rattle around inside my brain.

 

Website and social media handles, please! 

Website: ellenfriedlanderphotography.com

Film: artists4peace.org

IG: @emfphoto59

Facebook: @Ellen M. Friedlander

Ellen Friedlander: Still from video, Know Hope, Know Dreams

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