Donald Fried: A 45-Year Retrospective To Benefit The U.C. Davis MIND Institute

Donald Fried’s photographic formation took place over four decades ago, during a period when immigrant social patterns in major American cities were principally determined by economic circumstance and the Western states were defined by their geographic remoteness and stark beauty.  His initial visual recordings at Chicago’s Lincoln Park Zoo and Grant Park, juxtaposed by Chicago’s urban terrain, specifically bus depots, construction sites, city streets, and alleyways, qualified his work for inclusion in a group show at the Chicago Art Institute. Mr. Fried recalls the strong impression photography had on his emerging architectural career.  “I was seriously torn to attempt to support my family through photography and leave my job as an architectural designer and building contractor.  Financial constraints forced me to choose the latter, but I never gave up my love of photography.”

Mr. Fried’s devotion to photography begun as a college student progressed as he undertook studies in portraiture and subsequently moved to California in the early 70’s, at which point he gained exposure to the natural environment and beauty of the Western states. “The West’s stark beauty is where I have always been driven to capture images in black and white.  Hiking and backpacking in the Eastern Sierra, Death Valley, the Great Basin, and the Southwest holds as much excitement and anticipation of being there today as when I first came across these incredible landscapes years ago”.  Mr. Fried notes that many of these pristine areas with unimproved roads and few people have been replaced with highways, RV parks, convenience stores, and other trappings of “civilization”, impeding the fragile Southwest ecosystem.  Edward Abbey, the well-known environmental writer of the West, has direly predicted that this region is becoming one large blacktop pavement, an assertion to which Mr. Fried agrees.

Mr. Fried and his wife Maureen now prefer photographic excursions accompanied by their yellow lab Molly in the Eastern Sierra Nevadas, Southern Utah, and the greater Santa Fe area, travels which permit reflection concerning the human effects on pristine landscapes and their surrounding ecosystems. It is this reflection that encourages his continued photographic documentation of the Western landscape and surrounding environs.

Combining his lifelong interests in social inquiry and human impact, the creation of this 45-year retrospective exhibit instills in Mr. Fried the ‘magic of photography’.  The elderly people at Chicago’s Lincoln Park Zoo and Grant Park were photographed over a period of a few weeks in the late 1960’s.  “By looking at these images today, it now all comes back to me – the faces of the Eastern European immigrants, the 80-degree temperature of the Lion House, the smell of the zoo animals – all mixed with the pungent aroma of their lunches. Some engaged in daily lively discussions in a language I didn’t understand; others just stared into nothingness, looking for something out of their lives that already had passed them by. It was a poignant experience for a certain young photographer who could leave this scene and return to his comfortable middle class existence.”

The many human and natural impressions offered by the camera lens compelled Mr. Fried to record faces and settings amid metropolitan and remotely rural landscapes.  Initially, he was struck by the immigrant poor residing in Chicago’s sub-standard apartments, seeking reprieve from brutal mid-western weather of late fall and winter, who every day, all week long, congregated in their social meeting place, and stayed until the zoo closed. Years later, the beautiful and fragile regions of the Southwest, their peoples, and their communities impressed upon him a desire to aptly understand rural ecology of the West.  Now, after the passing of several decades, the requisite need to both document and preserve the West’s remaining natural heritage encourages Mr. Fried to record this innate beauty.  This retrospective is a visual inquiry – one prepared in the hopes of encouraging continued human social and environmental awareness.

Donald Fried has dedicated his first solo exhibit to autism research. All exhibit proceeds will be donated to the U.C. Davis MIND Institute, 2825 50th Street, Sacramento, 95817.


Lincoln Park Zoo Study No. 6




Agave—La Jolla, California


Storm over Sangre de Cristo, New Mexico




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