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Carol Friedman is a New York-based portrait photographer who has photographed music, art, and business icons for more than two decades. Her award-winning images of jazz, soul, and classical music[…]

“A photograph isn’t successful unless you capture the subject’s inner life.”

Question: Which photographers have inspired you?rnrn

Carol Friedman: rnFor me there were two photographers, just two photographers, rnIrving Pennrnand Richard Avedon, and if, you know, I talk about music lineage I guessrn if therernwas lineage I come from that school, not the Cartier-Bresson school, notrn thernDiane Arbus school, although we all experiment when we’re coming up, andrn I hadrnmy…  You know, I did run around Parisrnwith my Leica being Cartier-Bresson, and I did, you know, knock on the rndoor ofrna gypsy family and be Diane Arbus. So we go through our stages. But I rnwas always interested in the blank canvas, and I learned that the blankrncanvas existed through Penn and Avedon, and I had very different rnenergies and Irnnever got to meet either one of them or photograph them, but that’s kindrn of, their work is just, again, indelible.


Question: What makes a photograph art? 


Carol Friedman: I studied with Philippe rnHalsman.  He was a great Life magazinernphotographer and it was his edict that a photograph isn’t successful rnunless yourncapture the subject’s inner life, so I heard that, you know, before I rnwas 20 andrnthat still resonates for me, so if you can’t…  If rnyou don’t know who someone is by looking at the picturernthat I’ve taken then I haven’t succeeded, so in terms of greatness ofrnphotography I think that extends to everybody’s work.  Yourn know you want to believe the moment.  I mean rnthere are rotten ads and therernare great ads in the commercial world. rnI mean that Louis Vuitton campaign, it’s brilliant. And then rnthere arernother ones that I just want to roll my eyes and say are kidding? you rnknow thatrnyou take someone very famous in a Dolce & Gabbana ad, who is past rnthe agernthat she should be for this ad, you know, with fake cleavage and a cat rnthat looksrnmiserable and it’s not working for me. rnYou know, and then you turn the page and there is a Guess Jeans rnad thatrnis so working and it is just singing off the page because it’s real and rnbecausernthe energy is all there and all the elements come together in the right rnway.

Recorded on April 21, 2010
Interviewed by Austin Allen