Leonard Freed was an American documentary photographer who spent his career chronicling the fight for civil rights and the ramifications of state persecution.
Born in Brooklyn in 1929 to Jewish parents of Eastern European descent, Freed picked up photography in 1953 while living in the Netherlands, before travelling widely throughout Europe and North Africa. In 1962, Freed was in Germany when he saw an African-American soldier guarding the Berlin Wall. It struck him that, while this soldier was ready to defend the American ideal of freedom overseas, African-Americans were still struggling to win their own freedoms at home.
Having returned to the US, Freed began to make a name for himself in the early 1960s, photographing the country’s civil rights movement. Accompanying Dr Martin Luther King on a number of marches and rallies, Freed was there to photograph the 1963 March on Washington, which culminated in King’s historic “I Have a Dream” speech at the base of the Lincoln Memorial.
After joining Magnum Photos in 1972, Freed’s work included series on the Yom Kippur War and, later, the New York City Police department of the 1970s, compiled in the 1980 book Police Work.
One theme Freed returned to throughout his career was Judaism, inspired by his own roots in the religion. He documented the Jewish residents of Amsterdam rebuilding their lives after World War II, as well as Hasidic Jews in Jerusalem throughout the 1960s and 70s. His book Deutsche Juden Heute was published in 1965, followed by Made in Germany – about postwar life in the country – in 1970.
This image, of friends embracing in a park in West Berlin, was shot in 1965. By that point, the first iteration of the Berlin Wall had been completed, physically and ideologically dividing Western Europe from Soviet Russia, and the young people of West Germany from their peers in the East.