Abe Frajndlich

Abe Frajndlich, New York, USA

Abe Frajndlich: The portrait photographer of the photographers

It is with “hungry eyes”, but also with a tenacity and patience only equaled by Penelope’s firm belief in the return of her husband Odysseus, that over the last 30 years American Abe Frajndlich has taken portraits of his famous fellow photographers. Now, a selection of over 100 pictures from the ever growing portrait collection has been published in book form for the first time under the title “Penelope’s Hungry Eyes”. It features grand old masters of the art and photographic artists, contemporaries of the author and younger masters from the Düsseldorf School.

Abe Frajndlich has succeeded in luring the world’s most famous photographers out from behind their cameras and in front of his. With extraordinary skill, he has trained his lens on people used to hiding their own eyes behind a camera. For each of his portraits (some in color, some black and white) Frajndlich has conceived an individual setup that brings into focus in diverse ways the photographer’s primary organ, namely their eyes, which are as special as the voice of talented singers. Some of the photographers shy away by closing their eyes, wearing a mask or turning away (Cindy Sherman, Annie Leibovitz, Thomas Struth or Hans Namuth). Others use props such as glasses, mirrors or magnifying glasses to set their eyes in scene (Bill Brandt, Duane Michals, Andreas Feininger, Lillian Bassman) and still others draw attention to the vulnerability of their eyes using knives and scissors (Imogen Cunningham, Lucas Samaras). Yet many of the subjects respond to the unfamiliar “change of perspective” by looking directly into Frajndlich’s camera (Candida Höfer, Berenice Abbott, Gordon Parks).
Our book is a special kind of reference work. Here, Abe Frajndlich presents a Who’s Who of recent photographic history, enriched with a highly subtle eye for humorous situations. In images and text (the photographer has added a personal note to each portrait) Frajndlich sets out to discover the ever enigmatic relationship between the real person and their own legend.
Abe Frajndlich was born in 1946 to in Frankfurt. At the age of ten he moved to the United States via Israel, France and Brazil. His role model and mentor was photographer Minor White, from whom he learnt “the art of seeing”.


"My photographs are the fortuitous intersections of time, space, grace, light and luck that it has been my great fortune to be open to, and to have captured through my eyes and optics. If in a really productive working lifetime one has the chance to have made 3-5 images that last, that is creative success. Only 75 years after you are gone, is it clear whether you have done anything worth saving.

Abe Frajndlich, New York City, USA, 28th May 2004, My Birthday, in 1946.”


Akron Museum of Art, Akron, Ohio

Biblioteque Nationale, Paris, France

Butler Institute American Art, Youngstown, O.

Cleveland Museum of Art, Cleveland, Ohio

Cleveland State University, Cleveland, Ohio

George Eastman House, Rochester, New York

Jewish Museum, Frankfurt, Germany

Ludwig Museum, Koln, Germany

M.I.T. Cambridge, Mass.

Musee Nicephore Niepce, International  Museum of Photography,  Chalon-sur-Saone.

Museum of Modern Art, New York City

Museum of Photographic Arts, San Diego, Cal.

National Portrait Gallery, Washington, D.C.

New Mexico Museum Fine Arts, SantaFe, NM

George Pompidou Centre, Paris, France

Princeton Art Museum, Princeton, N.J.

John and Mabel Ringling Museum, Sarasota, Florida

San Diego Museum of Art, San Diego, Cal.

Tampa Museum of Art, Tampa, Florida

University of Arizona, Tempe, Center of Creative Photography

Victoria and Albert Museum, London, England

Visual Studies Workshop, Rochester, New York

Whitney Museum of Art, NYC


Penelope's Hungry Eyes:Portraits of Photographers, Schirmer/Mosel Publishing, Munich, 2011

Abe Frajndlich Portraits, Prestel Publishing, Munich, London, New York, 2000

Eros Eterna, Unschau Braus, Heideberg, Germany, 1999

Masters of Light, Catalog to exhibition, Museum Ludwig,1990

Lives I've Never Lived: A Portrait of Minor White, Arc Press, Cleveland, Ohio, 1983

Cleveland Infra Red, Publix Imprints, Cleveland, Ohio, 1981

Figments, Self-published, Boston, 1975