For The American Monument, Lee Friedlander turned his attention to public monuments, photographed in situ (sometimes more situ than in), with all of our forgetting, misremembering, and disregard fully on display. Thousands of negatives, shot over a 12 year period, were edited down to 213, presented singly, or in groups of 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, or 9, and followed by Afterwords from Leslie George Katz (the 1976 edition) and Peter Galassi (for the 2017 one, shown here). All together, it’s a mammoth book, definitely worthy of its subjects.
Eakins Press published the original version in 1976, and this version, published 41 years later, at the height of #blacklivesmatter and the removal of Confederate Monuments (hooray! and GG on both counts), is timely and welcome. Used first editions are rare and incredibly expensive, and this book deserves to be in more hands.
Much like last week’s review of The Street Philosophy of Garry Winogrand, other authors and critics do much more justice to this book than I am able to at present, so please peruse these for more thorough discussions:
Sadly, The American Monument hasn’t been reviewed quite as extensively as was the Winogrand book, but you get the idea. Almost every reviewer points out that this project is/was considered by Friedlander (and many others) to be among his most important, and it’s easy to see why. It’s an incredible work, and the book, with its post-binding that allows easy disassembly and exceptional reproductions, is excellent all the way around.
Overall, I’d give it 4.5 stars.
Incredibly, copies of the second edition remain available all over at time of writing. Instead of that jungle store or some other third party, why not contribute a few extra dollars to the publisher. They’ve done a great job and deserve to reap every reward.
Like the first edition, it’s limited to 2000 copies, so jump on it while you can. Yes, it’s expensive, and I too hesitated before pulling the trigger, but believe me, it’s worth it. The American Monument is going to earn a spot on my coffee table, next to some Avedon/Baldwin and Stephen Shore and Paul Graham and Joel Sternfeld.