In 1959, The New Yorker called Robert Frank’s monumental photography book The Americans,
“One of the basic American masterpieces of any medium.”
From the lost souls in New York to the poor young blacks in the South, all who were falling in love underneath city lights or cotton trees. Anywhere USA downtown streets, wrought by age, and the native sons in their dirt-covered denim who walked them, Frank brought them to life in unsolicited, truthful ways, capturing ordinary Americans in all their various ways. Frank somehow managed to show their hopes and their unyielding excitement for their new found freedom. A freedom so vast, it allowed people to strive and reach as far as they could and grab success, but a freedom that also gripped the unlucky ones, born under unfavorable conditions and held them there, ho put a fight but ultimately failed.
The Beverly Hills avenues lined with palm trees, country homes that sit miles apart from each other, separated by a never-ending sky, the dinners and bars, the drive-in movies, the weddings and funerals, the men waiting in line for work, men riding horses and motorcycles, and the women dressed impeccably for their dates. And the flags, the American flags, hung in every corner, most damaged and faded by the hard sun.
The photographs were the opposite of the clean image seen on television or in Time magazine. They were not like the Norman Rockwell paintings that made America look like an innocent, fantasy. Frank’s photos were brutal, and yet the raw nature of them is what also made them beautiful. It was the first time people saw themselves as whom they really were.
His book featured an introduction by literary giant Jack Kerouac,
“After seeing these pictures you end up finally not knowing anymore whether a jukebox is sadder than a coffin.”
Robert Frank was also an experimental filmmaker. He is responsible for the notoriously strange documentary on the Rolling Stones, Exile on Main Street. And now there’s a new documentary on the reclusive life of Frank, titled Don’t Blink.
The film is currently traveling through film festival throughout the US and Europe.