Adam Friedberg • New York City
Please introduce yourself: what’s your name, where are you from, what do you do?
Adam Friedberg, born in Milwaukee Wisconsin, NYC based since 1988, professional photographer since 1991.
What is your relationship with photography? How did you get into it & and what keeps you interested/ motivated?
I started in 1991 as an assistant to a top fashion photographer in NYC, shot my own first commercial and editorial jobs in 1992 (still life and fashion), and have been working professionally since then with a wide variety of international clients including Wallpaper, Dwell, The New York Times Magazine and The Wall Street Journal Magazine (mostly architecture, interiors, and portraits).
At the very end of my time as an assistant to commercial and fashion photographers I was asked to help Joel Sternfeld on some projects and he became a mentor to me for a while, giving me advice and portfolio critiques from a very different perspective to the commercial editorial world I knew.
What are you currently working on, and – if there is – what is your next project/ journey?
Currently I’m finishing shooting the last images for my Single Story Project and looking to get it exhibited and have a book published. I’m also continuing shooting my Empty Lots Project (which I started in 1999) as well as a more recent project with the loose working title Hand Held Architecture (many of which are here). All of these projects are NYC based, almost entirely around my Lower East Side neighborhood. Wile my commercial work is nearly entirely digital, my personal projects are all film based.
The 2 Single Story images were shot with a 5×7 view camera, the color Empty Lots image was also shot with a 5×7 view camera (most others in this series are 8×10), the rest are Hand Held series and those were shot with either a 6×7 roll film camera or a 6×9 roll film camera. All of the images shown here are of the east side of Manhattan from 29th street down to Madison Street.
Tell me about “Single Story”? What is this project about and how did you come up with the idea?
The last fifteen years or so have seen an enormous increase in the development and construction of new buildings in New York City, especially in downtown Manhattan’s East Village, Alphabet City, Lower East Side, and Bowery neighborhoods. Previously, buildings greater than six stories were less common between the Financial District and midtown. Today, it seems, tall buildings are sprouting everywhere, with little regard for existing fabric. As a twenty five-year resident of the area, I have witnessed these changes. And as a longtime architectural/environmental photographer, I am compelled to document them.
Among downtown’s new starchitect-designed towers and the ubiquitous six-story tenements that have long characterized my once working-class community, there exist increasingly rare specimens: buildings of a single story. In a part of the city that’s never been chic or sleek, these low-riders blended in with their tenement neighbors, but now stand as outliers—oddballs even. They no longer “fit” their surroundings. Of particular interest to me, and in many ways this project’s point of germination, is the negative space these single-story buildings create. They open the street to the sky, providing a vista that can be enjoyed by all of us. With air rights, sunshine, and city views so valuable, and with the polarization of wealth having a direct impact on the area’s demographics, how much longer can these squat buildings stand?
The purpose of this project is to create a series of photographs that document every remaining single-story building in Manhattan’s Lower East Side neighborhoods, bounded by Broadway to the west, Avenue D-Houston Street-Pitt Street to the east, 14th Street to the north, and Canal Street-Essex Street-Delancey Street to the south. The photographs are made without people to allow the focus of the work to remain on the buildings and their surroundings. They are black-and-white images to emphasize the forms and negative space. I am recording each of these single-story buildings in this transitional time before they are replaced and forgotten, their corresponding negative spaces filled in. It is my intention this series will become a historical document, that it will be collected and published in book form. I am employing traditional analogue photographic processes: black-and-white, silver- halide-coated sheet film shot with a 5” x 7” view camera. This method of shooting sheet film in a large-format camera is one I have used since I became a photographer.
Thank you very much!
To know more about Adam Friedberg and his work, visit his website adamfriedberg.com and follow him on Instagram → @adamfriedberg