Robert Frank did collect the alternatives of hope and despair in what many people consider to be the greatest photography book of all time, The Americans. Ironically, it required a non-American to stand back with his camera and view us objectively. Robert Frank is Swiss.
Tens of thousands of art and photography students have been emulating his casual, honest style since the book was published in 1958. For those people it is unthinkable that The Americans could have been shot in color. Robert Frank was peeling back the layers of distraction getting down to the soul of our country. His approach was not without criticism, however. Popular Photography Magazine notoriously said Frank’s work was, “”meaningless blur, grain, muddy exposures, drunken horizons and general sloppiness.” Visionaries can seldom run the gauntlet unscathed.
Frank received a grant from the Guggenheim Foundation to finance the project and took his young family on the road with him for much of the two years it took to complete this project. It was the ultimate photo safari.
In 1957, Frank met the Beat poet Jack Kerouac on a sidewalk outside a party in New York City. He shared some samples of his travels and Kerouac agreed to write some words that resulted in the most famous essay/introduction to ever accompany a set of photographs.
The Americans belongs on the bookshelf of anyone who wants to be a serious photographer.
Robert Frank was born in Switzerland in 1924 and now lives in New York City.