'Groundbreaking' Photo Exhibit Shows American Experience
If you had the resources to travel around the United States taking photographs, what would your 'America' look like?
In the mid-1950s, photographer Robert Frank did just that - with groundbreaking results. The Cantor Art Museum at Stanford University is currently featuring an exhibit of photographs by Frank from that legendary work, called "The Americans."
According to the Cantor: "In 1955 and 1956, Swiss-born photographer Robert Frank (b. 1924) traveled throughout the United States on a Guggenheim Fellowship, photographing ordinary people in their everyday lives. His book The Americans—83 photographs, mostly from those travels, published in 1959—repudiated the bland good cheer of the magazines with an image of the country that was starkly at odds with the official optimism of postwar prosperity. The book became a landmark of photographic history; but Frank soon turned to filmmaking, and the rest of his early photographic career was largely forgotten. An important group of unknown or unfamiliar photographs in the Cantor Arts Center’s collection provides the core of the exhibition Robert Frank in America, which sheds new light on the making of The Americans and presents, for the first time, Frank’s American photographs from the 1950s as a coherent body of work."
To explain the significance and power of Frank's work, the Cantor description explains that:
"Frank repeatedly photographed isolated figures so that they seemed trapped by pictorial forces, for example. This powerful metaphor for Frank’s vision of lonely individuals imprisoned by social circumstances is announced in the first picture, The Americans, where the flag obliterates a spectator’s face (Parade—Hoboken, New Jersey, 1955). In Robert Frank in America, that photograph is juxtaposed with another that uses the identical pictorial scheme but a different subject; the interior of a bar (New York City, 1955)."
The exhibition, entitled "Robert Frank in America," is open from September 10, 2014 through January 5, 2015. It features 130 photographs from the Cantor’s collection, other public and private collections and from Frank himself. Peter Galassi, former chief curator of photography at the Museum of Modern Art, New York, is the exhibition’s guest curator and author of the accompanying publication.
This article by Jno Cook gives more insight into the importance of Frank's "The Americans": http://www.americansuburbx.com/2011/01/theory-robert-franks-america.html