Thursday, February 3, 2011

Robert Frank

Robert Frank grew up in Switzerland in the 1920s and 1930s, and he began his career in photography in the 1940s. He moved to New York in 1947, and he began working as a fashion photographer for Harper's Bazaar, but his photography didn't become popular until he released The Americans, a book published in 1958 in Paris and 1959 in the United States.  This book contained 83 photos of about 28,000 photos that Frank took over a two year period in which he travelled across America on a grant from the Guggenheim fellowship.  Among the places he travelled were Pennsylvania, Ohio, Michigan, Arkansas, and California. Unlike the similar photography projects of the day, The Americans showed the less positive side of life in America, and as a result of that, it received much criticism. Nevertheless. this criticism drew interest to the book, and it began to be accepted by younger generations. The interest focussed on Frank's unique style of cropping, lighting, and focussing his shots, and, of course, the meaning behind each photo. Speaking of his favorite photo,  involving a man who wasn't too happy to have his picture taken, Frank said the following. "Those are the difficult moments every photographer has to get over and get away with it and not be discouraged," he says. "Because if one is sensitive, it has an effect on you. So maybe it's better not to be sensitive as a photographer and just go on. Many photographers today have that but I never had that. I think it's nice to be sensitive as a photographer and maybe it's harder."(NPR) After releasing The Americans, Frank began to make films instead of taking photographs. His most popular film was a documentary on the Rolling Stones. Since the 1950s, interest in Robert Frank's photography and films has continued to grow. He is now 86 years old.

The following photos are a selection from The Americans, beginning with the photo mentioned above.

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I am a sophomore in college, studying Biochemistry and math, but I am a pilgrim for knowledge. I seek neither greatness nor acknowledgment, but rather to experience and understand the complex world of ours. My desire for this experiential journey of mine is to gain knowledge and wisdom and, more importantly, to form strong bonds of friendship with the individuals around me. This journey began in December of 2008, when a friend of mine died at the age of 17. In his short life, he had changed lives in ways that I never have done. I was struck by the beauty of the life that had been lost, and I made a promise that day to reach out to people around me; to live a life not wasted. My eyes were opened. My life was changed. My journey had begun.