Curators' Pick

Gun Play | Jill Freedman
Gun Play from Street Cops, Jill Freedman

Jill Freedman is a name you should know in the world of photography… but regrettably you likely don’t. With a career that spanned forty years, with seven (and counting) books and numerous pieces acquired by major galleries, Freedman’s work connects deeply with her subjects in a manner unlike most documentary photographers.

From the very beginning, Jill was IN. She didn’t go to take photos of Resurrection City in Washington in 1968; she LIVED in the camp with the protesters for the duration of that campaign. She travelled with the circus for several months in the early 70’s to get her incredible photos of life under and around ‘the big top.’ She embedded herself in the firehouses and police precincts of NYC and came out with work so beautiful and intimate that her two books on the subjects (Firehouse and Street Cops) were snapped up by first responders when they were re-released in the early 2000’s.

When Pulitzer Prize winner Studs Terkel wrote his oral history Working: People Talk About What They Do All Day and How They Feel About What They Do in 1974, Jill Freedman was who he interviewed when talking about photographers. From the first time I saw her work, I knew that there was an extreme tension in how she approached it. “Sometimes it’s hard to get started, ’cause I’m always aware of invading privacy. If there’s someone who doesn’t want me to take their picture, I don’t. When should you shoot and when shouldn’t you? I’ve gotten pictures of cops beating people. Now they didn’t want their pictures taken. (Laughs.) That’s a different thing.”[i] Freedman walked a very thin line between rooting for the underdog, yet respecting authority.

You can find out more about Jill Freedman at her site. Resurrection City, 1968 was recently re-published and can be found for purchase at your favorite bookstore or online. Firehouse and Street Cops are no longer in print, but used copies can be found online.

[i] Studs Terkel, Working: People Talk About What They Do All Day and How They Feel About What They Do, © 1972, 1974 (The New Press, New York, 2004, Pg. 153-154)

~ Mark Walton

from Circus Days, Jill Freedman
from Resurrection City, 1968, Jill Freedman
from Firehouse, Jill Freedman
Fiddler's Light, from A Time That Was: Irish Moments by Jill Freedman