Jill Freedman, Photographer Who Lingered in the Margins, Dies at 79

Lion’s Head bar in Greenwich Village closed at 5 a.m. — she found her stride in New York when the city was still mostly seedy, living her life and work as if she were auditioning for a role in one of her photos. A police siren, she said, meant that someone was playing her song.

“My friends and relatives know I’m nuts,” she told The New York Times about her total immersion in her subjects. “It’s obsessive. I want to tell the story and I want to get it right. God forbid I should make it easy on myself.”

photo, Ms. Freedman caught two firemen, apparently having survived a mission, sharing a cathartic kiss.

Anne Wilkes Tucker, curator emerita of the Museum of Fine Arts in Houston. “I don’t think she got her due at the time,” Ms. Tucker said in a phone interview in August. “She didn’t have that support group that a lot of photographers have. And we all need that.”

Ms. Freedman’s work and health both tailed off in the 1980s. With no health insurance, she received a diagnosis of breast cancer in 1988 and later broke her pelvis. She moved to Miami in 1991 and shot a series there on local strippers, but she was no longer as motivated as she had been, Marcia Schiffman said.

In addition to her and Ms. Schiffman-Sklar, Ms. Freedman is survived by several other cousins.

Ms. Freedman returned to New York after her time in Miami, to an apartment in Harlem, and talked in recent years about compiling one more photo book, to be called “Madhattan.” It would be a tribute to a wild, messy, psychotic, remarkable city that she had missed terribly.

“We used to have a great brand of crazies,” she said. Ms. Freedman was their photo booth.

Daniel E. Slotnik contributed reporting.


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