Leonard Freed

American, b. 1929, d. 2006 

Born in Brooklyn, New York, to working-class Jewish parents of Eastern European descent, Leonard Freed first wanted to become a painter. However, he began taking photographs while in the Netherlands in 1953, and discovered that this was where his passion lay. In 1954, after trips through Europe and North Africa, he returned to the United States and studied in Alexei Brodovitch's 'design laboratory'. He moved to Amsterdam in 1956 and photographed the Jewish community there. He pursued this concern in numerous books and films, examining German society and his own Jewish roots; his book on the Jews in Germany was published in 1961, and Made in Germany, about post-war Germany, appeared in 1963. Working as a freelance photographer from 1961 onwards, Freed began to travel widely, photographing blacks in America (1963-65), events in Israel (1962-2006), the Yom Kippur War in 1973, and the New York City police department (1972-79). He also shot four films for Japanese, Dutch and Belgian television.

Early in Freed's career, Edward Steichen, then Director of Photography at the Museum of Modern Art, bought three of his photographs for the museum. Steichen told Freed that he was one of the three best young photographers he had seen and urged him to remain an amateur, as the other two were now doing commercial photography and their work had become uninteresting. 'Preferably,' he advised, 'be a truck driver.'

Freed joined Magnum in 1970 and became a full member in 1972. His coverage of the American civil rights movement first made him famous, but he also produced major essays on Poland, Asian immigration in England, North Sea oil development, and Spain after Franco. Photography became Freed's means of exploring societal violence and racial discrimination.

Leonard Freed died in Garrison, New York, on 30 November 2006.


1980      National Endowment for the Arts
1978      New York State Grant for the Arts

2006       Dance of the Faithful - The Minneapolis Institute of Arts, Minneapolis, USA
2004       Made In Germany - Galerie Argus Fotokunst, Berlin, Germany
2003       Nude and Naked - Galerie Esther Woerdehoff, Paris, France
2003       Women Wearing Only Light - Radiant Light Gallery, Portland, USA
2000       Black in White America - Lee Gallery, Winchester, Maine, USA
2001       GAC Gallery, Garrison Art Center, Garrison, New York, USA
1999       Galerie Mistral, Montreal, Canada
1999       Esther Woerdehoff Gallery, Paris, France
1998       Leica Gallery, New York, USA
1998       Vision Gallery, Jerusalem, Israel
1998       Desmond-Fish Library, Garrison, New York, USA
1996       Parts Gallery, Minneapolis, USA
1996       Benny Smith Gallery, Cold Spring, New York, USA
1996       Minneapolis Photographers' Gallery, Minneapolis, USA
1996       Retrospective: The Photographs of Leonard Freed - Leica Gallery, New York,
1994       292 Gallery, New York, New York, USA
1994       Drew University, Madison, New Jersey, USA
1993       Palazzo delle Esposizioni, Rome, Italy
1992       Gallery FNAC, Berlin, Germany
1991       Alinari, Florence, Italy
1989       San Daniele del Friuli, Friuli, Italy
1987       Galerie Municipale du Château d'Eau, Toulouse, France
1984       Galerie FNAC, Paris, France
1975       Trapani, Sicily, Italy; The Photographers' Gallery, London, UK
1974       Polizzi Generosa, Sicily, Italy
1971       Jewish Museum, New York, USA
1970       Il Diaframma, Milan, Italy
1967       Liverpool Cathedral, Liverpool, UK
1966       Steendrukkerij de Jong, Hilversum, Netherlands


Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam, Netherlands
Swiss Foundation, Zürich, Switzerland
Fundación Cultural Banesto, Madrid, Spain
Riverside Museum, New York City, USA
Metropolitan Museum, New York City, USA
Museum Folkwang, Essen, Germany
Israel Museum, Jerusalem, Israel
International Center of Photography, New York City, USA
Bibliothèque Nationale, Paris, France


2004       Another Life, ABP Public Affairs, Netherlands
1997       Amsterdam: The Sixties, Focus Publishing, USA
1991/92  Leonard Freed: Photographs 1954-1990, Cornerhouse, UK/Editions Nathan,
              Paris/W.W. Norton & Company, USA
1990       New York Police (Photo Notes), Centre National de la Photographie, France
1984       La Danse des Fidèles, Editions du Chêne, France
1980       Police Work, Simon & Schuster, USA
1977       Berlin, Time-Life Books, New York, USA
1971       Leonard Freed’s Germany, Thames & Hudson, UK
1970       Seltsame Spiele, Verlag Bärmeier & Nikel, Germany
1970       Made in Germany, Grossman Publishers, USA
1967       Black in White America, Grossman Publishers, USA
1965       Deutsche Juden Heute,  Rütten & Loening Verlag, Germany
1958       Joden van Amsterdam, de Bezige Bij, Netherlands


1993      Joey Goes to Wigstock (color,10')