Robert Frank


Robert Frank Biography


A 23-year-old Robert Frank cast off his family’s expectations and immigrated to New York.  From his experience as an apprentice to Swiss photographers, he landed a job at Harper’s Bazaar, where fashion assignments occasioned travel.  America provided his lifelong focus; a Guggenheim Fellowship allowed him to produce the imagery contained in the groundbreaking monograph The Americans.  Beat writers embraced his work and Frank gained momentum as one of the most influential photographers of his time.  Frank once remarked, “You can capture life, but you can’t control it.”  Frank’s work is in the collection of The Corcoran Gallery of Art, The Metropolitan Museum of Art and The Whitney Museum of American Art.

Frank structured The Americans in four parts, each beginning with the symbolically-charged American flag.  Hoboken (Parade) is the first photograph in the book and, as such, becomes emblematic of the whole.  The flag, constrained within the rectangle of Frank’s frame, becomes part of the tapestry of a dark urban landscape, and conveys a wholly different meaning from such images as Joe Rosenthal’s triumphant Flag Raising at Iwo Jima made ten years earlier.  With each repetition of the flag in the book—semi-transparent, hanging vertically, and torn and patched, in Jay, NY (Fourth of July), or rendered as an illuminated plastic sign on a barroom wall in Detroit (Bar)—Frank adds new shades of meaning that reflect the America of the 1950s.