How the Cleveland Kid photographs icons with his Nikon

What do you do when you see Irving Penn peering back at you through your lens?
I’d panic then practice Zen.

What to do when Cartier Bresson shouts as you shoot, “Get out of my way, Be Gone!” and hits you on the head?
I’d be frantic and play dead.

And when you ask Annie to sit in a chair and suddenly your camera is flying midair, because La Leibovitz has thrown a fit, I’d quit in despair.

But not Frajndlich. The Cleveland Kid is very brave and has a trick or two up his sleeve. Anyone who can turn a lemon into Jack Lemonade is a foto alchemist. The rumors of Abe’s humor are true. He has the light touch of a jewel thief who can steal your face sans grief. He sees what others only notice, and in a flash ALACAZAM, it’s thank you ma’am.

How does he do it?

  • Frajndlich mesmerizes with chit-chat Distracts with catty gossip.
  • Slips them martinis,
  • Then stuffs them with blinis.
  • He shoots away until they say, “Uncle!” Are we through already? Can I go now?

The Cleveland Kid is haute couture not pret a porter. Each portrait is not so much a reproduction of the sitter’s face, but rather an expression of the subject vis-a-vis his poetry. Insight is Abe’s secret. Understanding, rather than mere observation, is what defines him as a photographer. To be Frajndlichized is to be immortalized.

And that is all I have to say.

© duane michals 2012

abe frajndlich

Born May 28, 1946, Frankfurt a/M, Germany
Resides in New York City, NY


  • BA, Northwestern University, Evanston, Il. English Literature, 1968
  • MA, Northwestern University, Evanston, Il. English Literature, 1970
  • Three-year residency with Minor White, Chairman of MIT Department of Photography (1964-1976), Arlington Hts., Mass., 1970-71, 1975-76
  • Study and work with Nathan Lyons, Visual Studies Workshop, Rochester, New York, 1974-75

present position

Freelance art, magazine and commercial photographer. Has worked for Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, Life, ArtNews, London Sunday Times, London Observer, Vanity Fair, and many others in the U.S. and Europe. His most recent book, Penelope's Hungry Eyes: Portraits of Famous Photographers, was published by Schirmer/Mosel in 2011. His current project is the work with a Japanese Butoh dancer, Minami Azu, and is tentatively titled: Butoh Muse, projected for exhibition and publication in 2014.

selected solo exhibitions

  • Kunsthaus Rhenania, Exhibition for Photokina 2012, Koln, Germany, 55 photographs from Penelope's Hungry Eyes
  • Tregoning Gallery, Cleveland, Ohio, 25 photographs, 2012
  • NordLightFestival Retrospective Exhibition, Kristiansund, Norway, 65 photographs, 2012.
  • Natalia Laue Gallery, Frankfurt, Frankfurt/New York 45 Photos, 2009
  • Jewish Museum, Frankfurt, Portraits, 101 Photos, 1970-2003
  • Butler Institute of American Art, Youngstown, Ohio, 2002
  • Reygers Gallery, Munich, 2002, 2001
  • GSI Gallery, Cleveland, Ohio, 2000
  • FotoForum International, Frankfurt, 1999
  • Infocus Gallery am Dom, Koln, Germany 1998
  • Museum Molkau, Leipzig, Germany, 1998
  • Fotogalerie Kulturamt Friedrichshain, Berlin, Germany 1997
  • FotoForum Frankfurt, Germany, 1997
  • Leica Gallery, New York City, 1994
  • Thread Waxing Space, New York City, 1993
  • University of Delaware Museum of Art, 1993
  • Ludwig Museum, Koln, Germany, 1990, Masters of Light Exhibition, traveled to 5 more museum venues in Germany until 1997, 110 photographs
  • Dayton Art Institute, Experiencenter Gallery, Dayton, O., 1983
  • Zenith Gallery, Pittsburgh, Penn., 1983
  • Akron Museum of Art, Akron, Ohio, 1982
  • Bonfoey Gallery, Cleveland, Ohio, 1981
  • The Photography Place, Philadelphia, Penn., 1979
  • SohoPhoto Gallery, New York, N.Y., 1977
  • Musee Nicephore Niepce, Chalon-sur-Saone, France, 1977
  • Gallery of Photographic Arts, North Olmsted, Ohio, 1976
  • United States Senate, Washington, D.C., 1974

selected group exhibitions

  • American Portraits, InFocus Gallery, Koln, 15 photos, 2011
  • Akte/Nudes, Galerie Tammen, Berlin, 25 photos, 2010
  • Fascination with the Body, Infocus Gallery, with Alvin Booth, 2007 22 photos
  • Eyes of Time, Galerie Tammen, Berlin, 35 photos, 2006
  • Gifts to the Nation, National Portrait Galllery, Wash.D.C., 2006, 4 photos
  • Esthetic of the Erotic IV, Leipzig Museum of Photography, 2005
  • Fifteen Years, Fifteen Photographers, inFocus Gallery, Koln, 2005
  • Photography from Private Collections, Foto, Forum International, Frankfurt, 2005
  • Exposed, Nudes of the 20th Century, Heilbronn Museum, with Weston, Brandt, Man Ray, Gibson, 2004, 2 photographs
  • Nudes, inFocus Gallery, Koln, 2004, 2 photos
  • Scapes: City & Land, Butler Institute of American Art, Trumbull, with Simona Frajndlich, 51 photographs
  • Before, During and After 9/11, Dead Horse Gallery, Lakewood, Ohio, 2002, 20 photos
  • Portrait of the Art World, A Century of ARTnews Photographs, starting at the New York Historical Society, NYC, and travelling to four venues through 2004, 3 photographs
  • Peter Bunnell Exhibition, Princeton Art Museum, 2002, 2 photographs
  • Art Bridge: New York-Cologne-New York, Edward Carter Gallery, NYC, 2001, 10 photographs
  • World Wildlife Fund Portfolio Exhibition, Der Hague, Helsinki, Frankfurt, Istanbul, 2000/2001, with 25 other international photographers
  • Documentation/Manipulation in 20th Century Photography, curated by David Ebitz, Ringling Museum, Sarasota, Fla., 1999, 20 photographs.
  • Photographic Portraits of Artists since 1945, curated by Michael Kohler, Museum Bad Arolsen, 1999 Stadtmuseum Hofheim am Taunus, March 1999-May 2000 eight portraits of Cindy Sherman, four portraits of Gilbert&George
  • Master Photographs from the Permanent Collection, The Cleveland Museum of Art, 1996, 1 photograph + inclusive catalogue, 15 photographs Leica Gallery, Two Person with Ralph Gibson, 96
  • Thinking Print, Books to Billboards, 1980-95 The Museum of Modern Art, New York, 1996, Large group show, 9 photos as part of a Portfolio 500 Capp St. with David Ireland, text by John Ashberry
  • The Essential Art: 140 Years of American Photography from the Ansel Adams and Virginia Adams Collection University of Arizona, Center for Creative Photography traveling show, 1992, 1 photo
  • Les Conserves de Nicephore, exhibition and catalog of permanent collection of Musee Nicephore Niepce, Chalon-sur- Saone, France, 10 photographs, 1992 May Show, Cleveland Museum of Art, Cleveland, Ohio, 1992, 1989, 1988, 1986, 1982, 1981, 1979, 1977, 1974, 1973
  • Inside Self someone else, Dayton Art Institute, with Eleanor Antin, Robert Arneson, Luis Azaceta, Jay Bolotin, Lynn Hershman, William Wiley, 1984 PhotoCollect, New York City, Two Person with Minor White, 1983
  • Second Sight--Infra Red Survey, Carpenter Center, Harvard University, 1981, Show traveled in U.S. & Europe through 1984
  • Personae, Mather Gallery, Case Western Reserve Univ., Cleveland, Ohio, 1980 Summer Show, Daniel Wolf, New York, N.Y., 1980
  • Fotogalerij Paule Pia, Antwerp, Belgium, Two-person exhibit with Andre Kertesz, 1978
  • Focus Gallery, San Francisco, Two-person exhibit, 1978
  • New Gallery of Contemporary Art Addison Gallery of American Art, Andover, Mass., 1976
  • Gallery of Photographic Arts, North Olmsted, Ohio, Two-person exhibit with Ansel Adams, 1977
  • G. Ray Hawkins Gallery, Beverly Hills, Cal., 1976 MIT, Cambridge, Mass., Two-person exhibit, 1976
  • Celebrations, MIT, Cambridge, Mass., 1974
  • Children: 1843-1973, Exchange National Bank, Chicago, 1973

selected collections

  • 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

selected corporate & private collections

  • Tom & Katherine Ball, Cleveland and Venice, Italy Baker & Hostetler, Cleveland
  • Peter Bunnell, Princeton, N.J.
  • AGA Burdox, Stockholm, Sweden
  • Nancy Dickenson, Santa Fe, New Mexico Harry Drake, Minneapolis, Minnesota Milton Esterow, New York City
  • First Chicago Bank, Chicago, Illinois Eikoh Hosoe, Tokyo
  • Huntington Bank, Columbus, Ohio
  • Bill Jacklin, Newport, R.I.
  • Kopperman & Wolf, Cleveland
  • Peter Lewis, New York City, Aspen and Cleveland
  • Toby Devan Lewis, Aspen, Cleveland and New York City Gilbert Lloyd, London
  • Herbert Locher, Shanghai & Koln
  • Celina Lunsford, Frankfurt, Germany McKinsey & Company, Cleveland
  • Nuveen Investments, Minneapolis, Minnesota Ohio Savings, Cleveland
  • Francine & Benson Piloff, Cleveland & Raleigh, N. Carolina Hans-Georg and Bernadette Pospischil, Frankfurt, Germany Progressive Corp., Cleveland, Ohio and Albany, NY
  • James Rosenquist, New York City
  • Don Sanders, Houston, Texas
  • Shearman & Sterling, Frankfurt, Germany Cindy Sherman, New York City
  • Lothar Schirmer, Munich, Germany Standard Oil Corp., Cleveland
  • Target Corporation, Minneapolis, Minnesota Michael Trapp, Frankfurt, Germany
  • Jurgen Tesch, Berlin and Munich


  • Penelope's Hungry Eyes:Portraits of Photographers, Schirmer/Mosel Publishing, Munich, 2011, 105 photographs available in German and English editions
  • Abe Frajndlich Portraits, Prestel Publishing, Munich, London, New York, 2000, 83 photos
  • Eros Eterna, Unschau Braus, Heideberg, Germany, 1999, 115 photos
  • Masters of Light, Catalog to exhibition, Museum Ludwig,1990, 54 photos
  • Lives I've Never Lived: A Portrait of Minor White, Arc Press, Cleveland, Ohio, 1983, 83 photographs
  • Cleveland Infra Red, Publix Imprints, Cleveland, Ohio, 1981, 83 photos
  • Figments, Self-published, Boston, 1975, 59 photographs


  • 500 CAPP, Collaboration with David Ireland, John Ashberry, and Gunner Kaldewey, Kaldewey Press, Edition 46, 1995
  • Glove, Collaboration with painter, Chris Pekoc, 12 photographs, ARC Press, Edition 50, 1982
  • Homage to Yukio Mishima, Introduction by Eikoh Hosoe, 12 photographs, ARC Press, Edition 35, 1980
  • Entropic Freeze, Introductory quote from Nathaniel West's Miss Lonelyhearts, ARC Press, Edition 35, 1980
  • Cleveland Infra Red, Introduction by Peter Lewis, 12 photographs, ARC Press, Edition of 60, 1980
  • Lives I've Never Lived: A Portrait of Minor White, Intro by Douglas Neil Prudden, 12 photos, Cleveland, Ohio, Edition 50, 1979
  • Private Figments, Intro by D. N. Prudden,12 photos, Boston, Mass.,edition of 25, 1975.

book projects--2006-2012, (not yet published)

  • Site Specific Investigations of a Glove 2006
  • timepasttimepresentfototime, 2007
  • 50 Self Portraits, 2007
  • Looking for Marilyn and Elvis, 2008
  • Lust Redux, 2008
  • Transit, (bridges of N.Y.C), 2009
  • Lush Bush, (tree project), 2009
  • Butoh Muse, 2011
  • MX, 2011
  • FilmNews, 2011
  • Before, During and After 9/11
  • Performance, 2011
  • Frajndlich Fotographs, Portfolios and Early Work, 2011 Dream, 2011
  • Cindy Sherman Unmasked, 2012
  • Configured Pictures, 2012

Major Awards:

  • Kodak Professional Division Award: 1988-90 to photograph Master Photographers Worldwide
  • Case Western Reserve University grant for the production of the book, Penelope's Hungry Eyes from the Toby Lewis Foundation Grant, 2010-2011

Lectures and Workshops:

Abe Frajndlich has been lecturing and doing workshops throughout his professional life in the United States and Europe, starting in the mid '70's and continuing into the present.