For Robert Frank (1924-2019)

To experience a thing as beautiful means: to experience it necessarily wrongly.

Friedrich Nietzsche


… photographs become standard evidence for historical occurrences, and acquire a hidden political significance.

Walter Benjamin


Photography is the process of rendering observation self-conscious.

A photograph is effective when a chosen moment which it records contains a quantum of truth which is generally applicable, which is revealing about what is absent from the photograph as about what is present in it. The nature of this quantum of truth, and the ways in which it can be discerned, vary greatly. It may be found in an expression, an action, a juxtaposition, a visual ambiguity, a configuration. Nor can this truth ever be independent of the spectator.

Every photograph is in fact a means of testing, confirming and constructing a total view of reality. Hence the crucial role of photography in ideological struggle. Hence thee necessity of our understanding a weapon which we can use and which can be used against us.

Peter Berger, Understanding a photograph


The camera is a kind of passport that annihilates moral boundaries and social inhibitions, freeing the photographer from any responsibility toward the people photographed. The whole point of photographing people is that you are not intervening in their lives, only visiting them. The photographer is a supertourist, an extension of the anthropologist, visiting natives and bringing back news of their exotic doings and strange gear. The photographer is always trying to colonize new experiences or find new ways to look at familiar subjects – to fight against boredom. For boredom is just the reverse side of fascination: both depend on being outside rather than inside a situation, and one leads to the other.

The implicit intent of Frank and Arbus, and many of their contemporaries and juniors, is to show that America is the grave of the Occident.

Susan Sontag, On Photography


Robert Frank…he sucked a sad poem right out of America onto film, taking rank among the tragic poets of the world.

Jack Kerouac, introduction to The Americans

Robert Frank’s arguably best collection of photographs appears in book form under the title, The Americans. It may be justly said that we see the world differently and more truthfully through his eyes-lens, and it is this that we celebrate.

A full pdf version of this work is available here.

Don’t Blink – Robert Frank (2015)

by Laura Israel
Publication date 2015-10-04

Robert Frank revolutionized photography and independent film. He documented the Beats, Welsh coal miners, Peruvian Indians, The Stones, London bankers, and the Americans. This is the bumpy ride, revealed with unblinking honesty by the reclusive artist himself.

“Robert Frank is gloriously notorious. He is the groundbreaking photographer of The Americans; the iconoclastic director of Pull My Daisy and Cocksucker Blues; a difficult (almost impossible) interview subject; a rejecter of wealth and celebrity; a man whose ‘sympathies were with people who struggled,’ who has a ‘mistrust of people who made the rules.’

He was also a father to a daughter, Andrea, and a son, Pablo, who both died young. His work is emotional and impulsive. Filmmaker Richard Linklater describes Frank, who emigrated to the United States from Switzerland in the 1940s, beautifully as “a restless, searching artist pushing the boundaries of the documentary, experimental, and more traditional narrative forms.”

more info:;

Obituaries: The Guardian, The New Yorker

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