Leonard Freed exhibition, Berlin
Photography is an elusive art. What separates the merely good from the truly exceptional is a nebulous and subjective cocktail of technical mastery, an eye for aesthetics, and the capacity, perhaps, to turn the everyday into something exquisite.
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Worldview, a Berlin retrospective of work by the late Brooklyn-born Magnum photographer Leonard Freed, showcases life through the lens of a man who eschewed showmanship and glamour for quiet insight and poignant social commentary.
His black and white images won’t hit you in the face; the scenes can feel ostensibly mundane and the characters are anonymous. Rather, his is an art of careful observation and meticulous composition – a studied snapshot of life, at once familiar, beautiful and ultimately revealing.
As a photojournalist, Freed’s pictures examined disparate social contexts – from the plight of disadvantaged African Americans to the lifestyle of Hasidic Jews, to studies of German citizenry following the Second World War and behind-the-scenes coverage of the troubled New York City police force during the turbulent 1970s. His voice was his work – that ’visual language’ – his camera, in the end, as much a practical tool as an instrument of art.