2022 Icon Award: Douglas Friedman


The definition of the word icon is a person who is very successful and admired. When speaking of globally renowned photographer Douglas Friedman, many agree he is gracious, magnetic and has amassed a devoted following and an impressive portfolio of images that will inspire generations of designers. But what makes Friedman an archetype is that even with his many accomplishments, he is just getting started. “I think icons are saved for people that are at their pinnacle,” says the photographer. “I feel that I have so much farther to go. I am constantly listening to the little voice inside that says, ‘This could all end tomorrow.’”

After studying film and anthropology at Occidental College in L.A., he worked in film as an assistant to David Fincher. After a few years, he gave up on his dream of becoming a Hollywood director and decided to travel the world with a one-way ticket and his camera. This ignited a passion for photography that would then lead him to return to his hometown—New York City—and begin working with iconic photographers, including David LaChapelle and Terry Richardson. “There was a group of photographers I worked with over a span of four years that I learned from the most,” he recalls. “Aside from learning the technical side of the business, I really learned how to behave and how not to behave on set.”

His demeanor, along with his impeccable ability with a camera, led to shooting for major publications including Harper’s Bazaar, Vanity Fair, InStyle and more. But his intuition was pulling him elsewhere. “My drive was always to photograph interiors and architecture, but I was pushed into fashion,” he notes. “I just couldn’t wrap my head around it emotionally and was mesmerized by interior photography because it remains relevant and has more longevity than fashion.”

Luckily, he trusted his gut and has now evolved into one of the most sought-after interior photographers throughout the world. His ability to capture the essence of a space and pull a viewer into a room with his signature way with light is unrivaled. “I hope so far that I have brought moments of creativity and joy to people,” says Friedman. “We live in challenging times and there is so much discontent. I want my work to help people escape.”

Now, living in Marfa, Texas, where he finds respite from his busy travel schedule, Friedman has gained a new perspective on life. “I used to feel like I was missing out on things but now I am content and realize it’s enough,” he says. “I have an appreciation of the work I get to do and the lifestyle that surrounds it. I get to visit wonderful places, see incredible things and meet amazing people. No regrets.”

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