Frank, Robert

Frank, Robert,

1924–, Swiss-American photographer and filmmaker, b. Zurich. He emigrated to the United States in 1947 and became a citizen in 1963. Frank is considered the pioneer of the "snapshot aesthetic," in which the documentary image is rendered bluntly and without conscious artistry. His best-known work is The Americans (1959), a composite portrait of U.S. culture as seen by a relative newcomer. In its 83 black-and-white photographs he presents telling glimpses of clutter and trivia as well as informal pictures of all manner of Americans, often anxious or isolated, in everyday situations throughout the country. These powerfully composed photographs were considered gross, shocking, degrading, and even un-American when they were first published, but soon became an intrinsic part of American iconography, greatly influencing other artists in many media. Frank's films, also documentary in style, include Pull My Daisy (1959–60, with Alfred Leslie), OK, End Here (1963), and Me and My Brother (1965–68).


See books of his photographs, including Lines of My Hand (rev. ed. 1989); biography by RJ Smith (2017); S. Greenough, ed., Looking In: Robert Frank's "The Americans" (museum catalog, 2009); documentary dir. by L. Israel (2016).

Frank, Robert

(1924–  ) photographer, filmmaker; born in Zurich, Switzerland. A free-lance fashion and film photographer in Zurich (1943–47), he emigrated to New York in 1947 where he was befriended by Alexey Brodovitch, Art Director at Harper's Bazaar. A successful free-lancer (1947–51), he did fashion and advertising photography for Harper's and The New York Times among others, traveling on assignment to South America and Europe. In 1953 he collected and selected work for Steichen's exhibition, Post-War European Photographers, at the Museum of Modern Art. The first European to receive a Guggenheim in 1955, he spent the next two years traveling across America to capture images of daily life with his 35mm camera, publishing The Americans in 1959. In 1958 he collaborated with the painter Alfred Leslie and author Jack Kerouac to film the free-swinging Pull My Daisy. One of the founders of the New American Cinema Group, he spent most of his time making films until 1966, when he virtually gave up photography. In 1969 he moved to Cape Breton, Nova Scotia.
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