Photographer Insight: Robert Frank

Today, we look at Robert Frank, an iconic Swiss American photographer that became infamous for his attack on the American dream with a book called the Americans.

Frank was born in Zurich, Switzerland to a wealthy Jewish family. He emigrated to the United States in 1947 and and worked as a fashion photographer in New York city. The then travelled to South America before returning back to the United States to continue working as a photographer. 

He was extremely influenced and inspired by Walker Evans, a photographer and photojournalist that documented the drudge of poverty during the great depression. Following the successful receipt of a grant from John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation, Robert Frank set out on his seminal work called the Americans. He faced some challenges on his trip but was also welcomed for his work. He had been detained, persecuted for his Jewish identity and in some instances asked by officials to leave their counties as he tried to document the hardships and lives of Americans in poverty. He met Jack Kerouac during this journey who, upon seeing the photographs, agreed to write an introduction to the American version of the book. Out of 28000 photographs taken during these two years, only 83 made it to the final publication of the Americans.  

The critics were very negative about his work questioning his credentials to reflect American society in such a negative light. Over time though, his work became critically acclaimed and even set Frank as a modern day Alexis de Tocqueville. Frank later moved from photography to film and continues to produce movies. 

He is 89 as of the writing of this blog entry.