Robert Frank’s proposal to create “an observation and record of what one naturalized American finds to see in the United States” (NPR.org) was what led to his book The Americans. Frank shot about 27,000 images on his road trip, edited the prints down to about 1,000 and finally settled on 83 prints for his book.
His photos reflect the raw side of America – the America not on offer to the world at that time. He was photographing the blue collar workers as well as across the colour line and his work was not favourably looked upon when it was first published. His work was regarded as shocking but it was also influential. It inspired photographers such as Joel Meyerowitz, Jeff Wall and Ed Ruscha.
Although not immediately evident, The Americans is constructed in four sections. Each begins with a picture of an American flag and proceeds with a rhythm based on the interplay between motion and stasis, the presence and absence of people, observers and those being observed.
National Gallery of Art
Bjorn van Sinttruije (2013) Robert Frank – The Americans [vidcast, online] 2/10/2013. 5 min 46 secs. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8-01NkUGBO8 (accessed 18/07/2017)
Cole, Tom (2009) ‘Americans’: The Book That Changed Photography [online] NPR.org. Available at: http://www.npr.org/2009/02/13/100688154/americans-the-book-that-changed-photography [Accessed 18 July, 2017]
National Gallery of Art. The Robert Frank Collection | The Americans, 1955-57 [online]. National Gallery of Art. Available at: https://www.nga.gov/content/ngaweb/features/robert-frank/the-americans-1955-57.html [Accessed 18 July, 2017]
O’Hagan, Sean (2014) Robert Frank at 90: the photographer who revealed America won’t look back [online] The Guardian. Available at: https://www.theguardian.com/artanddesign/2014/nov/07/robert-frank-americans-photography-influence-shadows [Accessed 18 July, 2017]