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Robert Frank

American Photographer | Born: 1924 - Died: 2019

Robert Frank is one of the most acclaimed photographers of the 20th century. His seminal book, The Americans, is arguably the most influential publication of photography among artists that followed. In 2009, a major substantial touring monographic exhibition and scholarly catalogue organized by Sarah Greenough made stops at the National Gallery of Art, Metropolitan Museum of Art, and the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art. Looking In: Robert Frank's The Americans coincides with the 50th anniversary of the publication of The Americans, first released in 1958 by Parisian publisher Robert Delpire, and in 1959 by Grove Press, which made the book available to a wider audience.

Source: Robert Mann Gallery


Robert Frank began studying photography in 1941 and spent the next six years working for commercial photography and graphic design studios in Zurich, Geneva, and Basel. In 1947 he traveled to the United States, where Alexey Brodovitch hired him to make fashion photographs at Harper's Bazaar. Although a few magazines accepted Frank's unconventional use of the 35-millimeter Leica for fashion work, he disliked the limitations of fashion photography and resigned a few months after he was hired. Between 1950 and 1955 he worked freelance producing photojournalism and advertising photographs for LIFE, Look, Charm, Vogue, and others. He also garnered support for his independently produced street photographs from important figures in the New York art world, including Edward Steichen, Willem de Kooning, Franz Kline, and Walker Evans, who became an important American advocate of Frank's photography. It was Evans who suggested that he apply for the Guggenheim Fellowship that freed him to travel throughout the country in 1955 and 1956 and make the photographs that would result in his most famous book, The Americans, first published in France as Les Américains in 1957. After its publication in America in 1959, he devoted an increasing amount of time to making films, including Pull My Daisy and Cocksucker Blues, both of which exemplify avant-garde filmmaking of the era. Since 1970, Frank has divided his time between Nova Scotia and New York; he continues to produce still photographs in addition to films.

The Americans was one of the most revolutionary volumes in the history of photography, and it was a source of controversy when it was published in the United States. Frank's cutting perspective on American culture, combined with his carefree attitude toward traditional photographic technique, shocked most Americans who saw it at the time. During the next decade, however, these qualities of his photography became touchstones for a new generation of American photographers; indeed, Frank's work continues to shape contemporary photography.

Source: The International Center of Photography

Robert Frank: Park / Sleep
Author: Robert Frank
Publisher: Steidl
Year: 2013 - Pages: 72
Following its acclaimed predecessors Tal Uf Tal Ab (2010) and You Would (2012), Park / Sleep is the third in the series of Robert Frank's late visual diaries. It takes up his familiar collage technique, combining new and old snapshots mainly of Frank's friends, family, and home/studio, but also scenic and urban settings and interiors. The images are accompanied by short texts--notes, pieces of conversations, poems, and thoughts.
 
Robert Frank: Valencia 1952
Author: Robert Frank
Publisher: Steidl
Year: 2012 - Pages: 64
In 1950, Robert Frank left his job as a photographer in New York to travel through Europe with his family. That summer he arrived in Valencia, Spain, which was at the time a humble, bleak place enduring the austere conditions of the postwar period like the rest of the country. The pictures Frank took of Valencia depict the daily life of a fishing village. His portrayal is so natural and clear that further verbal explanation seems superfluous; they simply reflect, in the photo grapher's words, "the humanity of the moment". The photographs in this book, many of which have never been published before, allow dignity to override poverty.
 
Tal uf Tal ab
Author: Robert Frank
Publisher: Steidl
Year: 2010 - Pages: 40
"Tal Uf Tal Ab is Swiss-German. It means direction up the valley - down the valley. Now I live and wait and think mostly in the places I live - New York City and Mabou N.S." Robert Frank. Tal Uf Tal Ab is a book of new photographs by Robert Frank. Frank's subjects are his life now, an inquisitive existence shaped by memory: newsstands, streetscapes, portraits of friends and his wife June Leaf, interiors, a self-portrait. This book is the latest phase in Frank's unceasing exploration of photography, and a humble yet important progression in the medium of the photobook.
 
Looking In: Robert Frank
Author: Robert Frank, Sarah Greenough
Publisher: Steidl
Year: 2009 - Pages: 528
First published in France in 1958, then in the United States in 1959, Robert Frank's The Americans changed the course of twentieth-century photography. Looking In: Robert Frank's "The Americans" celebrates the fiftieth anniversary of this prescient book. Drawing on newly examined archival sources, it provides a fascinating in-depth examination of the making of the photographs and the book's construction, using vintage contact sheets, work prints and letters that literally chart Frank's journey around the country on a Guggenheim grant in 1955-56. Curator and editor Sarah Greenough and her colleagues also explore the roots of The Americans in Frank's earlier books, which are abundantly illustrated here, and in books by photographers Walker Evans, Bill Brandt and others. The 83 original photographs from The Americans are presented in sequence in as near vintage prints as possible. The catalogue concludes with an examination of Frank's later reinterpretations and deconstructions of The Americans, bringing full circle the history of this resounding entry in the annals of photography. This volume is a reprint of the 2009 edition.
 
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