A Love Poem for New York: A Memorial Exhibition for Jill Freedman at Ki Smith Gallery




Jill Freedman. Image courtesy Ki Smith Gallery

On Saturday, November 30th, Ki Smith Gallery will open its doors to a celebration of the extraordinary life of acclaimed documentary and street photographer Jill Freedman (1939-2019).

The self-taught Freedman first arrived in New York City in 1964, taking in her surroundings in its entirety. Best said in her own words, “When I was out walking in the street with Fang (her poodle), I saw everything, felt everything. He had a great instinct. He taught me how to look, because he never missed a thing.”

But when hearing of the assassination of Martin Luther King, Freedman quit her job in NYC and traveled to Washington, D.C. to live and photograph in the shantytown on the Washington Mall known as Resurrection City. Photographs from this series were later published in Life, and were the focus of her first book, Old News: Resurrection City, 1970.

Drawn to the 42nd Street of the 1970s, and the art scene at Studio 54 in Soho, she later settled in to a two-year project photographing firefighters in Harlem and the Bronx, resulting in her book, Firehouse, published in 1977 ~ followed by a focus on the New York City police in Alphabet City and Times Square in her series, Street Cops (1978-1981)

The video above was filmed in 2016 as part of the School of Visual Arts (SVA) Masters Digital Photography: Lecture with Jill Freedman.

It is said that she found her subjects where others weren’t looking. Again, in her own words, “beggars, panhandlers, people sleeping on the street, it’s the theater of the streets, the weirder, the better.” Jill Freedman passed away October 9, 2019 at the age of 79.

Freedman lived and photographed in Harlem during different periods in her life, and so how fitting it is that A Love Poem for New York, A memorial Exhibition for Jill Freedman will be on view at Ki Smith Gallery in Harlem ~ from November 30 through December per 7, 2019, with Opening Reception on Saturday, November 30 from 6:00 to 10:00pm. The exhibition is curated by her longtime friend and neighbor, Sade Akin Boyewa El.

Selections from Resurrection City, Firehouse and Street Cops, from the 1960s to 1980s, will be on view.