In the mid-1950s, Swiss-born New Yorker Robert Frank embarked on a ten-thousand-mile road trip across America, capturing thousands of photographs of all levels of a rapidly changing society. The resultant photo book, The Americans, represents a seminal moment in both photography and in America's understanding of itself. To mark the book’s fiftieth anniversary, Jonathan Day revisits this pivotal work and contributes a thoughtful and revealing critical commentary. Though the importance of The Americans has been widely acknowledged, it still retains much of its mystery. This comprehensive analysis places it thoroughly in the context of contemporary photography, literature, music, and advertising from its own period through the present.
From the author of the acclaimed James Brown biography The One comes the first in-depth biography of renowned photographer and filmmaker Robert Frank, best known for his landmark book The Americans. As well-known as Robert Frank the photographer is, few can say they really know Robert Frank the man. Born and raised in wartime Switzerland, Frank discovered the power and allure of photography at an early age and quickly learned that the art meant significantly more to him than the money, success, or fame. The art was all, and he intended to spend a lifetime pursuing it. American Witness is the first comprehensive look at the life of a man who's as mysterious and evasive as he is prolific and gifted. Leaving his rigid Switzerland for the more fluid United States in 1947, Frank found himself at the red-hot social center of bohemian New York in the '50s and '60s, becoming friends with everyone from Jack Kerouac, Allen Ginsberg, and Peter Orlovsky to photographer Walker Evans, actor Zero Mostel, painter Willem de Kooning, filmmaker Jonas Mekas, Bob Dylan, writer Rudy Wirlitzer, jazz musicians Ornette Coleman and Charles Mingus, and more. Frank roamed the country with his young family, taking roughly 27,000 photographs and collecting 83 of them into what is still his most famous work: The Americans. His was an America nobody had seen before, and if it was harshly criticized upon publication for its portrait of a divided country, the collection gradually grew to be recognized as a transformative American vision. And then he turned his back on certain success, giving up photography to reinvent himself as a film and video maker. Frank helped found the American independent cinema of the 1960s and made a legendary film with the Rolling Stones. Today, the nonagenarian is an embodiment of restless creativity and a symbol of what it costs to remain original in America, his life defined by never repeating himself, never being satisfied. American Witness is a portrait of a singular artist and the country that he saw.
"Writing from New York in March 1949, Robert Frank sent home to his mother in Switzerland a birthday gift of a book maquette of a series of photographs he had made during a visit to Peru. Frank made an identical book for himself and one of each of these two dummies now resides in the collections of the Museum of Modern Art, New York, and National Gallery of Art, Washington." "A few of these images are well-known in Frank s oeuvre but previously the entire series had only ever been seen by a small number of people. This book presents for the first time the complete sequence of images, based on the original book Frank had conceived and realised under his direction. Peru is a work of major historical significance in both the artist s history and the history of photography."--BOOK JACKET.
Until now, celebrated photographer Robert Frank’s daring and unconventional work as a filmmaker has not been awarded the critical notice it deserves. In this timely volume, George Kouvaros surveys Frank’s films and videos and places them in the larger context of experimentation in American art and literature since World War II. Born in 1924, Frank emigrated from Switzerland to the United States in 1947 and quickly made his mark as a photojournalist. A 1955 Guggenheim Foundation fellowship allowed him to travel across the country, photographing aspects of American life that had previously received little attention. The resulting book, The Americans, with an Introduction by Jack Kerouac, is generally considered a landmark in the history of postwar photography. During the same period, Frank befriended other artists and writers, among them Allen Ginsberg, Peter Orlovsky, and Gregory Corso, all of whom are featured in his first film, Pull My Daisy, which is narrated by Kerouac. This film set the terms for a new era of experimental filmmaking. By examining Frank’s films and videos, including Pull My Daisy, Me and My Brother, and Cocksucker Blues, in the framework of his more widely recognized photographic achievements, Kouvaros develops a model of cross-media history in which photography, film, and video are complicit in the search for fresh forms of visual expression. Awakening the Eye is an insightful, compelling, and, at times, moving account of Frank’s determination to forge a personal connection between the circumstances of his life and the media in which he works.
"John Ingledew: Photography provides a basic introduction for students across the visual arts. This accessible, inspirational guide to creative photography explores the subjects and themes that have always obsessed photographers and explains technique in a clear and simple way. Embracing the whole spectrum of photography from traditional to digital, it introduces the work of the masters of the art as well as showing fresh, dynamic images created by young photographers from all over the world. An essential resource, the book also provides a valuable overview of careers in photography and a comprehensive reference section, including a glossary of technical vocabulary."--BOOK JACKET.
After the end of World War II, the American road trip began appearing prominently in literature, music, movies, and photography. Many photographers embarked on trips across the U.S. in order to create work, including Robert Frank, whose seminal 1955 road trip resulted in The Americans. However, he was preceded by Edward Weston, who traveled across the country taking pictures to illustrate Walt Whitmans Leaves of Grass; Henri Cartier-Bresson, whose 1947 trip through the American South and into the West was published in the early 1950s in Harpers Bazaar; and Ed Ruscha, whose road trips between Los Angeles and Oklahoma later became Twentysix Gasoline Stations. Hundreds of photographers have continued the tradition of the photographic road trip on down to the present, from Stephen Shore to Taiyo Onorato and Nico Krebs. The Open Road considers the photographic road trip as a genre in and of itself, and presents the story of photographers for whom the American road is muse. The book features David Campanys introduction to the genre and eighteen chapters presented chronologically, each exploring one American road trip in depth through a portfolio of images and informative texts, highlighting some of the most important bodies of work made on the road from The Americans to present day.
"In this book, Bezner brings back many of those silenced voices and offers the first detailed analysis of social documentary photography from the Depression through the early cold war years. She explores the little-known history of the controversial, blacklisted Photo League and leading member Sid Grossman. And she recalls some of the most important moments in American photographic history of the 1950s, such as Edward Steichen's blockbuster exhibition, The Family of Man, and Robert Frank's influential book, The Americans."--BOOK JACKET.
This book is dedicated to Frank's film and video oeuvre. Containing film-stills, essays and summaries of each film, as well as comprehensive bibliographic and technical data, it is the definitive companion to Frank's films. With essays by Michael Barchet, Philip Brookman, Stefan Grissemann, Kent Jones, Thomas Mießgang, Pia Neumann, Bert Rebhandl, Amy Taubin Interview with Allen Ginsberg
A study of three photographic projects that emerged in the 1950s—The Familyof Man, Robert Frank's The Americans, and Bernd and Hilla Becher's typological record of industrialarchitecture—that expressed the modern desire for social belonging—the dream ofnation.