Robert Frank (1924- )

Robert Frank (American, b. Switzerland, 1924)
Trolley—New Orleans, 1955
Gelatin silver print; 8 5/8 x 13 1/16 in. (21.9 x 33.2 cm)
The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, Gilman Collection, Purchase, Ann Tenenbaum and Thomas H. Lee Gift, 2005 (2005.100.454)
Photograph © Robert Frank, from The Americans

Robert Frank at 90

Robert Frank is 90 years old on Sunday. The great pioneer and iconoclast has become a survivor, celebrated and revered, but still resolutely an outsider. One thing we can be sure of: he won’t be looking back.

“The kind of photography I did is gone. It’s old,” he told me without a trace of regret in 2004, when I visited him at his spartan apartment in Bleecker Street, New York, where a single bread roll and a mobile phone the size of a brick sat forlornly on the kitchen table. “There’s no point in it any more for me, and I get no satisfaction from trying to do it. There are too many pictures now. It’s overwhelming. A flood of images that passes by, and says, ‘why should we remember anything?’ There is too much to remember now, too much to take in.”

Nevertheless, it is impossible to imagine photography’s recent past and overwhelmingly confusing present without his lingeringly pervasive presence. Frank was 31 in 1955 when he secured the Guggenheim Grant that financed his various road trips across America the following year with his wife and his two young children in tow. He shot around 28,000 pictures. When Les Americains was published by Robert Delpire in France in 1958, it consisted of just 83 black and white images, but it changed the nature of photography, what it could say and how it could say it. Published in the United Sates as The Americans by Grove Press a year later, it remains perhaps the most influential photography book of the 20th century.

“I had Robert Frank’s The Americans as a teenager,” Jeff Wall told me recently, describing the early epiphany that led him into elaborately-staged art photography. “In fact, I made pencil drawings from various photographs in it. Frank and Walker Evans closed the door for me. What they did was so well done, I could never have matched it and I don’t think anyone has. They nailed it once and for all. That was a huge realisation – that I could not follow in their footsteps.”

Read the rest here


5 thoughts on “Robert Frank (1924- )

  1. I like this image for its seemingly journalistic and documentary qualities. The image speaks volumes, while being straightforward at once. I love when an image is frank. Looking into the photograph, social implications can be derived from a glance. The groupings of people (i.e. mother with children, white men in front of the women and children, black peoples in back) indicate much of the social scene at the time. The repeating geometric patterns make the photograph easy to look at, while simultaneously using the box form as a larger metaphor for grouping and separating social classes in a rigid manner fitting for the time period. The image is well composed and crafted in my opinion.

  2. I had to stop and comment on this picture because it is a very successful silver print. The composition and ranges of black, whites and greys makes this a phenomenal picture.

  3. Robert Frank’s a BAMF and took some of the best black and white photos of America throughout the years, hands down. Getting an image such as this with a perfect exposure, great focus, and awesome composition, all while making the viewer feel the emotions of those within the frame, is not an easy task, yet Frank makes it look effortless. Maybe that’s why some people don’t give photographers as much credit as they deserve… They just make it look easy ;]

  4. The candidness of the photo works well with the media used to create the image. While I feel the image would work well in a well-edited color print, the black and white adds a sense of antiquity that would otherwise be lost.

  5. Robert Frank did an excellent job with this Gelatin silver print. The photo has a nice black and white values. The expressions of each model in the photo I think tell a different story of some kind, it really makes me think and wanting to know.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s