Robert Frank, “The Americans” and The Road

I went to see Robert Frank’s “The Americans” this past week at the Met in New York City. I have always been a fan of Frank, not so much for his fashion photography but his photographic observations of “us”robertfrank_10.T – us Americans, our culture at that time in our history.  He was an observer of “all” people not just the beautiful ones captured on the pages of Harper’s Bazaar, and he captured those observations for generations to come.

As I took my time looking at the prints and contact sheets displayed, I was able to get a glimpse of how he shot – what his camera lingered on and where he went from there.  I could see his thought process in how he made his selections, looking at the frames circled with his red grease pencil. I read his letters to his colleague Walker Evans, another favorite of mine and I got a much better sense of him as a person and photographer.  I watched an early video that he filmed and was amazed by how he pushed his own photographic boundaries into another medium.  The exhibition provided a wealth of insight and information on Frank, his project “The Americans” and a time in our country’s history – and I was captivated.

His images linger in my head and remind me of my beginnings in photography and “why” I became a photographer.  Like Frank, I’m an observer of all people, of cultures and use my camera as a means to capture my observations and share them with others.  My passion is rooted in my own personal road trips; I have taken over the years with my camera. It has triggered in me the desire to explore, to embark on another journey with my camera and see where it takes me.

I’ve spent a career and a lifetime “on the road”, always the traveler, observing and capturing the daily lives of others – not the famous, but the common man.  Not the horrific, the outrageous, the exotic for those reasons  – but because they’re part of the world I live in.  My hope is that I the images I leave behind, will provide others a glimpse of that time, that space, those lives that I stumbled upon during a lifetime spent on the road.

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3 thoughts on “Robert Frank, “The Americans” and The Road

  1. Ethan G. Salwen October 25, 2009 / 10:38 am

    I saw the Frank show, too, and found it much more wonderful than expected, although I expected it to be pretty great. My favorite part was the contact sheets, exactly because, as you say, they showed so much more of what Frank was “thinking.” However, I’m really not sure exactly what Frank was “thinking” as the contact sheets are more like expanded expressions (whatever that means) than some kind of specific answers.

    For me, all of this begs two related questions of you, Gail: Can you give us more specific examples and/or insights into what you saw in Frank that you had not seen before. Probably more interesting, can you show us some more specific examples in your own life/work of what “going on the road” is, how it relates to your image making, what it stirred up in you? Maybe some sample images with background stories and/or reactions/thoughts on your part?

  2. Gail Mooney October 25, 2009 / 11:04 am

    Ethan,

    My life has pretty much been the “road” both professionally and personally speaking. The Frank exhibition struck a chord and reminded me of why I became a photographer and that I shouldn’t lose sight of that.

    I will no doubt share some images in a future blog of the “roads” I have traveled, along with the encounters I made along the way.

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