Reviewed by Donna Cosentino
Photography Dept. Chair, (retired 2018)
Palomar College, CA
The Photographer's Eye Gallery
Escondido, CA

"There is one image that always brings me back to the center of Laurie Freitag’s monochrome work, The Lost Years. Titled ‘Charley’ there is scarcely a thing at rest in this image. There’s Charley the dog, wide-eyed, his tangled mane flying wildly against a sky streaked with clouds. Just behind Charley is a child in flight, toes lifted above the grass, determined face working to swing as hard and high as he can. In the background the only stable element is home but backs are to it.  This is too much fun to think about anything but play…home is second fiddle.

This photograph stops me every time and it’s no wonder. Freitag’s ability to halt the rhythms of a child’s life, or at least slow them down, is the essence of this image and every image in this body of work. Her documentary style captures the fleeting moments of childhood unawares, and more particularly, unremembered.

Freitag’s training in Childhood Development lends itself moment to moment as she records the children she nannies. Her determination to make this record before these children reach age 7 is a way of keeping a history that, as adults, we are almost certain to forget. Her study of Magda Gerber, who emphasized allowing children to learn and grow through unfettered play, informs her approach.

A hallmark of Freitag’s work is her anonymous point of view and the dynamic use of space within the frame. Each image makes visual sense as the center of attention is a singular piece of time marking the day-to-day lifestyle of young and oblivious participants in her stories. I like to think of following these images as the progress of a child’s day, from high energy play to melting into sleep.

Freitag has created honest portraits through her heart and lens with immediacy and a caring eye. She has allowed these children to be authentic. Magda Gerber would be proud."

Reviewed by Ellen Wallenstein

Professor of Art,
Photography Department
Pratt Institute
Brooklyn, NY 11205
BFA Photography & Video
MPS Digital Photography
School of Visual Arts
New York, NY 10010

“The Lost Years” by Laurie Freitag is a beautiful series of images describing the worlds of the children under her care. Practicing documentary photography for many decades, and nannying for fifteen years, she has mastered both areas of study. Photographing in the Silver Lake community of East Central Los Angeles, we see the lucky children she works with. Their lives seem full of love and attention, privacy and respect.
A sleeping child watched over by a beloved sock monkey. A boy in a stranded boat in the back yard, playing. A boy climbing a wall, on a water hose. A girl on a swing in a tutu and shiny cowboy boots, head thrown back in ecstasy. Another boy sleeping in a drawer, with lush tones of velvet. So many secret gardens. So much mystery, in this best of worlds. Freitag shoots individual children and siblings, sometimes friends. There are no adults in these pictures, just a sense about the woman holding the camera.
Shooting with an iPhone, Freitag has managed to create quick, quirky knowing observations. Her skillful use of technical applications make them magical and memorable. This includes black and white, high contrast, darkened corners (harkening back to the Brownie camera), and depth-of-field employed with great intent. The majority of the photographs in this series were made since 2020 during the Covid Crisis. The knowledge of that timing makes these pictures all the more remarkable, as they reflect society’s shutdown into our own isolated worlds.
The photographing of children has been around since the beginnings of the medium, as evidenced in family albums of all cultures, when making a photograph of one’s dead infant was the answer to the grief of losing them. Photographs as celebration and evidence, photographs of history, were made before and after the invention of the Kodak camera, before the onslaught of family pictures that continue into today’s digital age. Before the iPhone made everyone’s (constant) images of their children ubiquitous.
A list of art photographers concentrating on photographing children is not that extensive. Freitag’s references are more Arthur Tress than Julie Blackmon, more Helen Levitt than Sally Mann, more Lewis Hine than Lewis Carroll.  (The only other photographer who was a nanny, the posthumously famous Vivien Maier, who hardly gave a photographic damn about the children she babysat, doesn’t count on this list.)
Freitag is not the parent or the collaborator, the illustrator or the adorer. She is watching but not judging, participating but not directing. She is able to remain unseen by her subjects, “a fly on the wall” as she describes it. Shooting from behind, above, and from closely afar, she manages to make these pictures as strange and mysterious as is childhood in hindsight and memory."

'In the Garden at Chislehurst’-
Reviewed by Stephen Benson

Contributing Curator, Southeast Museum of Photography
Daytona, Florida
Asst. Professor,
Southeast Center for Photographic Studies,
Daytona State College
Daytona, Florida

"Photographer Laurie Freitag has transformed the carefully landscaped Garden at Chislehurst into a prehistoric primordial forest. The strong forms made by the flora winding toward the sky is optically exaggerated confusing our sense of scale. This disorientation lends itself to the poetic surrealism adeptly used to describe the subjects.  
Freitag’s use of black and white adds to the internal dreamlike quality of the imagery.  The aesthetics of the work relies heavily on the seduction of the viewer with the invitation to a place that does not seem completely safe.
The idea that the viewer may not be safe, in a place so beautiful, takes advantage of the amount of information photographs inherently leave out. This holding back of information is largely responsible for the strong viewer engagement experienced while looking at these photographs and is among the important factors in the conceptual armature of the series."