Friedel moved to Vestavia Hills with his family when he was a teenager and graduated from Shades Valley High School. He worked during school as a news photographer, and snapped the photograph of Juanita Jones grieving with her sister, Maxine McNair, which was used on the cover of Newsweek's September 30, 1963 edition reporting the 1963 bombing of 16th Street Baptist Church.
Friedel earned his bachelor's degree at the University of the South in Sewanee, Tennessee and taught in Atlanta, Boston and Birmingham. Later he worked at Cooper Green Mercy Hospital. He was a member of St Andrew's Episcopal Church.
- "John Ashby Friedel" obituary (October 17, 2010) Birmingham News