A Pacific Northwest Editorial Photographer's Blog

Revisiting “The Americans”

frank_trolley

So a little more on Robert Frank’s influential book “The Americans”.

Looking In: Robert Frank’s ‘The Americans’ at the Metropolitan Museum of Art through Jan, 3, 2010.

Frank shot 767 rolls of film on his 10,000 mile road trip across America in the mid 1950’s, a total of 27,612 individual shots in total. He then edited it down and made over 1,000 work prints of different images and after 2 years finally selected the 83 images that actually were printed in the book. Editing is so important and perhaps the hardest skill for a photographer to learn. How to edit your own work. I hope to make it to NY to see this exhibit before it comes down. There is an interesting review of the Frank exhibit at the Met in the Wall Street Journal.

Looking In: Robert Frank’s The Americans” celebrates the fiftieth anniversary of the publication of The Americans, Robert Frank’s influential suite of black-and-white photographs made on a cross-country road trip in 1955–56.

“In the first room at the Met is a wall of about 80 work prints, most of which have never been exhibited before. They were at one time candidates for “The Americans,” and most were edited out over the two years he spent on the winnowing process.

Almost every one of these outtakes is wonderful—and these are only a sample of the 1,000 work prints he made, themselves a tiny fraction of the rough diamonds still buried in the contact sheets. Many photographers would feel lucky in a lifetime to have captured a handful of the images that Mr. Frank rejected.

Why he chose to publish one picture over another will have many of us studying the excellent essays in the catalog to gain a better hold on his reasoning. Everything was sacrificed to the flow across pages and the four sections of the book. The icon of riders looking at us from a New Orleans trolley car is followed by another frieze-like composition of busy pedestrians on Canal Street moving in apparent isolation.”


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