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A Tribute to Robert Frank

September 15 2019

There are few single works of art that have changed the direction of their medium. Robert Frank's The Americans , is one of them. In 1959, this book dramatically altered documentary photography and the way Americans perceived themselves.

At age 23, Robert Frank left Zurich and emigrated to New York. There, he very quickly came to detest the American conformity. His book was thought to be an indictment of American society, stripping away the picture-perfect vision of the country and positive attitude put forward in the media. Yet through his social criticism he expressed and honored what was true and good about the United States.

When it came out "The Museum of Modern Art wouldn't even sell the book," Mr.Frank said. "But the younger people caught on." In fact, Robert Frank didn't benefit much support from the art world. Popular Photography magazine complained about their “meaningless blur, grain, muddy exposures, drunken horizons, and general sloppiness.(...) Mr.Frank is a joyless man who hates the country of his adoption.”

That's what happens to art... It takes time to be acknowledged and for its dimension and meaning to be heard. Mr.Frank revolutioned the medium through the choice of his topic but also in his way of making photography which became known in the late 1960s as “the snapshot aesthetic”. A very personal style that captures spontaneity and authenticity. His pictures influenced the way photographers approached their subjects and frame.

In a recent interview, Mr. Frank acknowledged that he was more captivated by the least privileged. He explains Mr. Dawidoff in The Times Magazine: “My mother asked me, why do you always take pictures of poor people? It wasn’t true, but my sympathies were with people who struggled. There was also my mistrust of people who made the rules.”

Robert Frank died on September 9th 2019

MoMa remembering Robert Franck

Ezio Barbaro © Modemonline