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HomeContents > People > Photographers > Leonard Freed

Dates:  1929, 23 October - 2006, 29 November
Born:  US, NY, Brooklyn
Died:  US, NY, Garrison
Active:  US
One of America‘s greatest photojournalists with a long career working with Magnum. He carried out photographic projects dealing with negro life in the USA, the Jews of Amsterdam and was also in Israel following the 1967 Six Day War.

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Leonard Freed 
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Supplemental information


Leonard Freed
American 1929-2006

Leonard Freed was one of America's great photojournalists. He was born in 1929 in Brooklyn, NY and as a young man he studied painting and graphic design. Although he originally intended on becoming a painter, he became interested in photography after studying with the influential art director Alexey Brodovitch. One of his first bodies of photographs was a study of Hasidic Jews living in Brooklyn in 1954. He showed the work to LIFE magazine who introduced him to Cornell Capa, and Capa, in turn, introduced him to Magnum. Freed moved to Europe in 1956 and began working on assignments for publications including Paris-Match, GEO, London Sunday Times Magazine, and Der Stern.
In 1962 Freed went to Berlin upon hearing that a wall was being erected to divide the city. He made a now famous photograph of a an African American soldier standing alone in front of the wall and the irony struck him, African Americans at home were marching and protesting for civil rights and there in Germany was an African American soldier ready to defend his country. Freed and his family left Europe for the U.S. shortly afterwards and began making photographs in Harlem, Washington DC, and eventually throughout the South. This body of work documented the plight of the African American and was published in 1968. The book was titled Black in White America and it sold over 60,000 copies.
Over the years Freed published 11 more books and has displayed his work in several national and international group exhibitions as well as 25 solo exhibitions. His work can be found in public collections such as the Smithsonian Institute in Washington, D.C., the International Center of Photography in New York, the Metropolitan Museum in New York, and the Bibliotheque Nationale in Paris. Freed was a member of Magnum and continued to photograph to the end of his life.
[Contributed by Lee Gallery] 

Internet biographies

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Getty Research, Los Angeles, USA has an ULAN (Union List of Artists Names Online) entry for this photographer. This is useful for checking names and they frequently provide a brief biography. Go to website

Internet resources

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Magnum Photos ... 
Probably the world‘s most famous photo agency for photojournalists. Use this site to access the portfolios, biographies of the many notable Magnum photographers. Where there are books by the photographers the website frequently includes the photographs used. 

Printed biographies

The following books are useful starting points to obtain brief biographies but they are not substitutes for the monographs on individual photographers.

• Auer, Michele & Michel 1985 Encyclopedie Internationale Des Photographes de 1839 a Nos Jours / Photographers Encylopaedia International 1839 to the present (Hermance, Editions Camera Obscura) 2 volumes [A classic reference work for biographical information on photographers.] 
• Beaton, Cecil & Buckland, Gail 1975 The Magic Eye: The Genius of Photography from 1839 to the Present Day (Boston and Toronto: Little, Brown & Company) p.246 [Useful short biographies with personal asides and one or more example images.] 
• Evans, Martin Marix (Executive ed.) 1995 Contemporary Photographers [Third Edition] (St. James Press - An International Thomson Publishing Company) [Expensive reference work but highly informative.] 
• Lenman, Robin (ed.) 2005 The Oxford Companion to the Photograph (Oxford: Oxford University Press)  [Includes a short biography on Leonard Freed.] 


The wit and wisdom.

"Men die, heroically or fruitlessly, but man carries on. In Israel it is the same: the farmer must till the fields, the young must make love, and the photographer must, I suppose, be ready to photograph it all."
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