Born in Switzerland in 1924, Robert immigrated to the US in 1947 where he worked as a fashion photographer. He has lived in various countries for short periods including Wales and England but has essentially been based in New York. Robert Frank was interestingly never a member of Magnum Photos despite his strong photojournalistic background and his photo essay masterpiece The Americans. The Americans was deemed too controversial at the time he had completed it. He had essentially created a raw snapshot of America, warts and all, which was something that no one had ever successfully done before and this resulted in a die hard following by many different artists and activists of the day.
What I like most about his work
With a book introduction written by Jack Kerouac and the following of influential artists like Allen Ginsberg and the Rolling Stones, Robert Frank was an innovator. What I like most about him is his approach and tenacity. When his book The Americans was released in France in 1958 no american publisher would touch it. When they did the reviews were terrible. The magazine Popular Photography with its huge following at the time said his work was full of “meaningless blur, grain, muddy exposures, drunken horizons and general sloppiness” and dubbed him a “joyless man who hates the country of his adoption.” Not cool at all. Despite this he forged on with his work. I also really like his early approach to photographing people. He would often travel with his wife and two children and live amongst the subjects he photographed in an almost ethnographic approach.
Five of my favourite pictures
- Great insight into his book The Americans – www.youtube.com/watch?v=mHtRZBDOgag
- Joel Meyerowitz talking about how he met Robert Frank – www.youtube.com/watch?v=jvRyXju8Fmo
- Robert Frank interviewed by Peter Burchett – http://vimeo.com/9769036