Known for his unorthodox self-portraits, Lee Friedlander has given us another collection, but this time only in shadow, with The Shadow Knows, a reference to the 1930’s radio show that ended with the line: “Who knows what evil lurks in the hearts of men? The Shadow Knows.”
Sometimes Friedlander's shadow is presented as ominous — imposed over another person, sometimes his wife — lending the impression of sneakiness, desire, or possession. Other times it's playful, draped over a cactus or a pile of rocks, turning the photographer into a cartoon character with exaggerated body parts. And sometimes he simply makes himself part of a scene, often where you can make out the camera held up to his eye — the photographer’s version of breaking the fourth wall.
One thing is clear throughout the book: his shadow is treated as an honored guest, and Friedlander takes full advantage of the company, tirelessly finding ways of adapting it to his own drama. Historian and curator Rod Slemmons once wrote that Friedlander “provides us with a new visual world in which obstruction, confusion, and accident are the driving forces” — a statement never more evident than in this book.
Friedlander, you imagine, has discovered not just the evil and not just in the hearts of men, but something more profound in his own, and in these 101 photographs shows us what it has come to know.