Anne Darling Photography

Robert Frank
The Americans

In Robert Frank The Americans there are 83 images that reshaped the world of photography. It took Frank two years to complete the work for the book, as he travelled across America in 1955 and 1956 on a Guggenheim Fellowship making photos of what he wanted, when he wanted.

For Robert Frank The Americans was not a literal piece but a poem. It was poetic, political and personal all at the same time, Frank redefined photography and in particular social documentary photography in this 50 years plus masterpiece.

The book was first published in France in 1958 as no American publisher wanted to touch it. The following year it was published in America with an introductory text by Jack Kerouac, the Beat Generation poet. In Kerouac's own words: Frank... sucked a sad poem right out of America onto film, taking rank among the tragic poets of the world."

Robert Frank pictures are of normal people, scenes you might encounter anywhere at any time. They summed up the American life-style in a way that no one had seen it before.

Robert Frankl The Americans

In Robert Frank The Americans, Frank challenged photography entirely. It was no longer about beautiful landscapes or women draped in the latest fashion. It was about reality itself, whether ugly or beautiful. In Charleston, South Carolina we observe the hypocrisy of a nation that treats black people as unequal to white but considers them good enough to look after their children.

Robert Frank
Photographer & Film Maker

By the time The Americans was published in the United States Frank had abandoned photography in favour of filmmaking. Amongst his films are Pull My Daisy, Sin of Jesus, Keep Busy and Candy Mountain. However, he returned to still imagery in 197s with his second book of photographs The Lines of My Hand

Frank separated from his first wife Mary Lockspeiser, a fellow artist, in 1969 and remarried the sculptor June Leaf.

In 1974 Frank's daughter Andrea, was killed in a plane crash in Guatemala. Around that time, his son, Pablo, was diagnosed with schizophrenia and he later died in hospital in 1994. Much of Frank's work since then has been concerned with the grief and trauma associated with his double loss.

50th Anniversary of The Americans

Robert Frank Pingyao
Pingyao International Photography Festival, 2007: Photo by Anne Darling

Contact Press Images hosted an exhibition of Frank's photographs at the annual Pingyao International Photography Festival in China in 2007. A former diesel engine factory was used to mount five major exhibitions centered around Robert Frank The Americans which was then 50 years old.

Robert Frank Pingyao
Posing for the Camera in Front of a Robert Frank Image at Pingyao International Photography Festival, 2007: Photo by Anne Darling

The exhibition of Frank's The Americans was recreated, not as a series of mounted prints, but as enlarged pages, all 83 of them, so that visitors could walk through (see above).

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