In Pictures: Photographer Robert Frank’s ‘Sad Poem’ of America

The Swiss photographer, who died this week, is remembered for his candid pictures of ordinary people

In a career spanning seven decades, Swiss photographer Robert Frank (1924 – 2019) tirelessly documented the lives of ordinary Americans. His pictures depicted forlorn children on buses, exuberant lovers, empty gas stations, miners, bikers and drive-in movie theatres. In 1958, at the height of the Cold War, Frank embarked on a two-year journey across the US, gathering 28,000 photographs. The resulting book, The Americans (1958), would come to define a country in transition. At the time of its release, it was viewed disparagingly by critics for its loose style and break with formal convention. Now, it is widely considered a major achievement in documentary photography, and the beginning of a more candid and raw approach that would come to influence generations of artists. The Beat poet and novelist Jack Kerouac, who wrote the preface to the US release of The Americans, would later say of Frank: ‘He sucked a sad poem right out of America onto film, taking rank among the tragic poets of the world.’

Robert Frank, Trolley - New Orleans, 1955. Courtesy: ©Pace/MacGill, New York 

 

 

Robert Frank, View from hotel window - Butte, Montana, 1956. Courtesy: ©Pace/MacGill, New York 

 

 

Robert Frank, Parade - Hoboken, New Jersey, 1955. Courtesy: © Pace/MacGill, New York 

Robert Frank, Parade - Hoboken, New Jersey, 1955. Courtesy: ©Pace/MacGill, New York 

 

 

Robert Frank, San Francisco, 1956. Courtesy: ©Pace/MacGill, New York 

Robert Frank, Wales, Ben James, 1953. Courtesy: ©Pace/MacGill, New York 

 

 

Robert Frank, New York City, 7 Bleecker Street, 1993. Courtesy: ©Pace/MacGill, New York 

 

 

Robert Frank, Charleston, South Carolina, 1955. Courtesy: ©Pace/MacGill, New York 

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