Born in Brooklyn, New York, to working-class Jewish parents of Eastern European descent, Leonard Freed (1929-2006) began making photographs while in the Netherlands in 1953. Photography became Freed's method of exploring societal violence and racial discrimination, and his coverage of the American civil rights movement brought him initial distinction. In 1972, Freed became an early member of Magnum.
Black in White America was first published in 1968, following a lengthy examination by Freed of the plight of African Americans in the United States. The book is a moving collection of photographs and telling captions that document the African American struggle for self-definition in mid-20th century America. Freed traveled to New York, Washington, D.C. and all throughout the South, capturing images of a segregated and racially-entrenched society. Freed's sensitive and informative black-and-white photographs of 1960s African American living throughout America investigates the politics of the country, and articulates the anxiety of an under-represented and discriminated people.
In his ground-breaking and controversial Police Work, Leonard Freed worked alongside the policemen of New York in order to see what life 'on the beat' was really like. What he photographed was an elegant yet grittily realistic portrait of ordinary people doing a "sometimes boring, sometimes corrupting, sometimes dangerous and ugly and unhealthy job." Freed shows the isolation, the complexity, the harshness and the camaraderie of the men and women hired as public servants, and the people they are required to protect. Police Work is a sharply tragic and compassionate view of police work and life.
For this collection, Brooklyn-born photographer Leonard Freed chose his most powerful images taken during a period of over thirty years spent traveling across continents. The 170 black and white pictures collected here are well worth the wait: the subject matter is sometimes violent and the images often startling, but a deep compassion and lively interest in seemingly every aspect of the human condition are evident in each shot. It is around the theme of 'life and all its emotions' that Freed conceived this anthology, and it balances his commissioned worked with images reflecting a more personal quality.
Freed's images are, like those of Boubat, Doisneau, and Cartier-Bresson, full of irony, humor, and pathos. They document black America, neo-Nazis, the Arab-Israeli war, the Romanian revolution, and many other subjects. Stefanie Rosenkranz, a journalist from "Stern" magazine who has worked with Freed on assignment, contributes a highly personal anecdotal essay.