Friedlander concentrates on what he calls ‘the American social landscape’, observing everyday life in the cities and suburbs in black and white photographs that are identified only by place and date. One of Friedlander’s abiding concerns is the world of work, something that is reflected in a commission to create a documentary record of the industrial hinterlands of Ohio and Pennsylvania.

He produced images of the factory landscape before moving to the factory floor itself to picture the workers, creating powerful portraits in which machine-operators and their equipment are almost inextricable. In the mid-1980s, he was commissioned by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology to make a series of portraits of new technology workers, capturing the distinctive, concentrated ‘look’ associated with staring into a computer screen.