Image above: ITALY. Florence. 1958., Magnum Photos
Leonard Freed is known as one of America's most notable photographers pertinent to the times of the Civil Rights Movement. Freed's collection of images documenting the Civil Rights March of 1963 commemorates one of the most important events in American history capturing the raw passion and emotion of those who gathered that day. At the Leica gallery located in Lower Manhattan, I was given the chance to witness his many works as well as admire his photography depicting Italian lifestyle.
Although Jewish, Freed felt rather disconnected from his own culture and traditions and focused on rediscovering this part of him through capturing the essence and beauty of the Italian people and their culture. Freed's collection of photographs from cities such as Florence, Naples, Sicily and Rome expresses an intent for rediscovering his ancestry through the Italian people. He described them as having a strong sense of communion and through his fascination with the atavism witnessed there, he was more than eager to reclaim his own cultural values.
ITALY. Sicilia. 1976., Magnum Photos
In Leonard Freed: The Italians by Michael Miller, Miller states one of the reasons Freed was so enthusiastic about Italy was its beautiful and historic appeal. The cities’ qualities and features transcend through time to the present. As seen in some of the images, remnants of the past still inhabit the place as people go about their daily lives surrounded by statues and monuments. Freed mirrored this, setting up portraits by positioning the subject next to old portraits or paintings that indicated heritage through similitude.
Miller also states, "Freed, as I have observed, saw his experience of consciousness as dreamlike, and the arrangements of this book, which follows elements of composition and gesture rather than chronology or topography, provides an uncannily compelling vision of that state."
ITALY. Venezia. 2004., Magnum Photos
Overall the experience was enthralling. Brigitte Freed oversaw many of his photographs as she was both his partner and printer. Today she retains the same love and excitement as she once did when her husband was alive and plans to put together a book from a few remaining photographs she has held keepsake since his passing.
Freed no doubt left a legacy and trademark in the name of photojournalism and one is certainly compelled to witness his work up close and live.
Texts and photos from the opening provided by Chad Smith
Brigitte Freed (Widow of the Late Leonard Freed)
Brigitte Freed (Left) and Elke Susannah Freed, Daughter of Brigitte and Leonard Freed (Right)
Brigitte Freed and Friend
Inside Leica Gallery Located at 670 Broadway, New York, NY 1001