Last year, when I was delving into the photography of Sally Mann, the images that kept appearing in my search were divided between Mann and photographer, Robert Frank. It’s easy to see why–popular images from both are largely black and white, similarly composed and present a realistic, sometimes ugly, view of American society. Incidentally, Mann’s work Tobacco Spit harkens back to Frank’s Charleston, South Carolina – so maybe there’s something to that comparison.
With the publication of The Americans in 1959 — Frank’s collection of work became one of the most influential books on photography ever published. As Sarah Greenough describes in Looking In: Robert Frank’s The Americans, Expanded Edition, Frank “looked beneath the surface of American life to reveal a people plagued by racism, ill-served by their politicians and rendered numb by a rapidly expanding culture of consumption.”
I rediscovered the book when I was in New York two weeks ago, and have since wanted to keep flipping through of Frank’s photos. It’s pretty incredible when art can present a compelling and arguably accurate view of America (or any other subject) over 50 years after it was released. These are a few of my favorites:
o Related Resources (including links to talks, etc.) by the National Gallery of Art
o Timeless Lessons Street Photographers Can Learn from Robert Frank’s The Americans by Eric Kim