Friday, May 02, 2008

A thought about Robert Frank

Here's a link to an article about Frank and the 50 th anniversary re-issue of The Americans.

And here's another comment from a man who was there...

"The thing to understand about Robert is that he is middle-class Swiss, and therefore romantic about America, land of crime, jazz and Billy the Kid. Like
Danny Lyon from Scarsdale, he wanted to play with the bad boys (an assessment by Hugh Edwards). The Americans is Robert's expression of that romance, and it's the best thing he ever did. I have a notion, unconfirmed, that he was much influenced by Gotthard Schuh, who did good similar work in Europe in the 1930s. The first picture of Schuh's that I ever saw was on the wall of Robert's loft circa 1953, and it's a beauty. Schuh spent his last 20 years as picture editor of a Zurich newspaper, and died in 1968. Robert spoke well of Schuh then, but I've heard no more about that appreciation since. Come to think of it, I don't know anyone else of whom Robert has said anything complimentary. Mary could be recognized blocks away by her thrift-store clothes, chosen for out-of-date elegance with considerable taste. Like Woody Allen's Annie Hall, but in a different style.
Mary once said that when they woke up that morning, Robert had said, "Shut up, Shit." I got the impression that she'd said nothing, and that this was normal."

For me, this puts a more human spin on Frank and may lead some to think that the man was not the visionary others have made him out to be.
Clearly he's not the person I want to hear from first thing in the morning.
I have to believe that his rather acerbic way of greeting the mother of his children may in some way be a reflection of his whole out look on life.
Negative to say the least. That's not to say that his work is not good, it's something to keep in mind when trying to pin down it's quality.
Perhaps it's why much of the work appears to me to be rather dark and cynical.
On the other hand, if my assessment is correct there's much work to be done by Americans about Americans. We are not a dark and cynical people.

For another take on the The Americans see the essay by W.J.T. Mitchell, The Ends of American Photography Robert Frank as National Medium.
Which can be found in his book what do pictures want? The lives and loves of Images.

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