The Americans by Robert Frank

I borrowed this book from the library ages ago. I managed to flick through it once or twice but the whole thing seemed far away from me. When you read about the book you somehow expect more. The introduction by Kerouac was hard work. Not his best work. Maybe once upon a time in my life I would have enjoyed it. The beats. Maybe I just read too much of that stuff when I was younger. I stuffed myself. Kerouac had his moments but this wasn’t it. Nearer to the piano jazz recordings than “Big Sur”, it put me off.
This is a package, it all comes together. His words are part of the book.
In this bad mood I found it difficult to get on with the images. I was thinking that perhaps they fell into the category of culture that brought great changes and broke down walls but had been left behind. That had become normal. It’s influence everywhere to such an extent that the original can no longer be seen as fresh and inspiring.
I think in some ways this is still fair. But now I feel kinder towards it. It’s a beautiful book. It feels good and sounds right. It’s a package remember? Uncluttered. Photos on the right hand page. Captions on the left. And then the Americans. Suspicion. Distraction. Rich and poor. All b&w. Portrait and landscape. Boredom. Choices that aren’t. Pictures taken in passing. 83 images from 28,000. (how were the rest?) Click click click. Full of suggested lines. Eyes looking across. Or you as camera obvious in its looking. Not exactly deadpan but with a neutral front and a critical mass. Not a romantic view. These images do not love the states . They do not flatter. A spy from neutral Switzerland. Gathering information. Shots grabbed. Images working across the book. City fathers seem to turn their back on the political rally. While funeral looks at the political rally as dead and faces off and across the rodeo. Covered car looks like a magnificent dream. Like a king. The body on the next page. Car accident, a poor mimic. Jukeboxes like shrines. Like something you report to. An intelligence. A guard? Crosses. Home grown/state sponsored/road death memorial. A stream of light from above.the funeral. The cross. The road. The people. The jukebox. Television. Meals. Dates. Leisure. It seems to be the re-telling of 1950’s America. An anecdote to the glossy commercial images of the day. He worked as a commercial photographer too though its hard to find these images. From the hip. Moving moving. Click click click.

 

Some details about the making of the book…including contact sheets.

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Filed under Nov 2011, Readings

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