The photography community and those who were inspired to make social change as a result of his 1959 book, The Americans mourn the passing of Robert Frank, who died on Monday, September 9, 2019, in Nova Scotia at the age of 94.
I spent many days in the library at the Center for Creative Photography looking at Robert Frank’s work while I was a photography student in the Fine Arts program at the University of Arizona in the early 1980’s.
Though early critics denounced his “snapshot” photographic style and called him a bitter man who didn’t appreciate his new homeland (he was born in Switzerland, but immigrated to the USA at age 23), he changed the look of photojournalism and ultimately, the United States.
He was not bitter; he had a desire to strip away the “all’s good in post-war America” facade that he felt the media was playing into and reveal what was truly good about the United States in its diversity. His so-called snapshot aesthetic supported a feeling of experience; of reality; of being there in the moment and seeing what and who truly makes up America. The style was about experience, as much as subject.
He empathized with those who struggled and distrusted the privileged who made up the rules. His choice to let the photographs speak for themselves, without text, in The Americans forced the viewer to truly see the reality of our country in that time.
Well done, sir.