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Robert Frank: The Americans

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There have recently been articles and comments (sometimes even mine) about the “counterculture” and the new America of conformity and paranoia and authority. And they are just really talking about the last generation who were not co-opted totally and spent our youths taking on the “Establishment”, fighting the phony war in S.E. Asia, the forces of bigotry in the South, and the evil empire that Richard Nixon almost created.

That was the 60’s and 70’s. This is the real thing, the seminal work of photography and prose that brought the beauty of coming of age on that ubiquitous road trip across America to American youth as the rite of passage to manhood in a culture that was not to fall (as many did) into suburban little boxes that are now big boxes and who were not to forget that the country was made up of people who were far from alike and far from ready to embrace a conforming, Republican reality of follow the leader.

Those were the days when it began (except that we ignore for effect the Woodie Guthries and Ledbelly’s and Bessie Smiths who really started looking at America and not seeing it as the perfect dream it became, the gentrified shopping mall of life that marks the 21st century.

It is Robert Frank’s brilliant hand-held, non-digital, often grainy and even blurred, un-Photoshopped pictures of the America that unfolded before him at mid-century. And with them and their surprises and laughter and tears are the words of Jack Kerouac whether written without stopping on paper rolls or not.

In deference I have written this in the same way except on an Apple TextEdit sheet that just scrolls away. But it is 2005. Can you believe it? And the waitresses of roadside diners are there still but the film is not grainy and the diner is a chain fast food joint without any character and a photographer would be detained for shooting in a trademarked establishment by rentacops who have no sense or sense of humor or sense of vision.

This is it, the beginning, the germinal work. It is that which you study to know where 20th century photogrpahy&#8212street photography&#8212came from and to try to understand where 21st century photogrpahy should go. Take a look. The 1950’s just aren’t that far away.

This is the real thing, the seminal work of photography and prose of the 1950’s.. It was the beginning.

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About hfdratch

  • Nice echo of Kerouac, there, alpha! That breathless, my-this-is-important mien typified most beat poetry and prose-as-poetry.

    And thanks, BTW, for the observation that the 50s are not that far away – some of us who lived them are well aware of echoes of that era in daily life today.

  • erice

    hey hey hey

  • Visit my site to see images in the style of Robert Frank shot during the 70’s…