Bintel Blog

Robert Frank and his Frankly American Photographs

By Benjamin Ivry

  • Print
  • Share Share

The Zurich-born Swiss Jewish photographer Robert Frank, 84, is being celebrated in two New York exhibits, Looking In: Robert Frank’s The Americans which runs from September 22 to January 3, 2010 at the Metropolitan Museum as well as a smaller show at the Robert Mann Gallery in Chelsea.

Marking the 50th anniversary of the publication of “The Americans” (1959), Frank’s influential book of photographs, the Met show, which was previously seen at the National Gallery of Art, Washington DC, and the San Francisco Museum, is the occasion for a monumental, meticulously researched catalogue, “Looking In: Robert Frank’s The Americans – Expanded Edition” ( National Gallery/Steidl Editions). The catalogue notes that wartime Zurich had “several Hitler youth and pro-Nazi groups” and Frank is quoted that as he grew up there, antisemitism was “an organic part of life.” Even now Frank still vividly recalls hearing Hitler on the radio, “threatening — cursing the Jews. It’s forever in your mind — like a smell, the voice of that man – of Göring, of Goebbels.”

When Frank arrived in New York after the war, he was able to empathize with minority communities in his photos, whether Allen Ginsberg and his Beat associates, a trio of effeminate Hispanic men with plucked eyebrows, snapped in New York in 1955, or one of the rare explicitly Jewish images in “Looking In,” “Yom Kippur – East River, New York City, 1954.” In this somber back view of a group of religious Jews, extra vivacity is added by the profile of a little boy wearing a kippah, gazing dewy-eyed at the landscape.

As explained in an NPR interview in February, Frank’s The Americans was originally seen as coarse and gloomy; it is now revered as a classic. The new catalogue makes the intriguing case that American Jewish colleagues like the still-underrated photographer Louis Faurer influenced Frank to abandon Swiss-style technical perfection in photography and aim instead for gritty emotionality.


Permalink | | Share | Email | Print | Filed under: photography, Metropolitan Museum, Robert Mann

The Jewish Daily Forward welcomes reader comments in order to promote thoughtful discussion on issues of importance to the Jewish community. In the interest of maintaining a civil forum, The Jewish Daily Forwardrequires that all commenters be appropriately respectful toward our writers, other commenters and the subjects of the articles. Vigorous debate and reasoned critique are welcome; name-calling and personal invective are not. While we generally do not seek to edit or actively moderate comments, our spam filter prevents most links and certain key words from being posted and The Jewish Daily Forward reserves the right to remove comments for any reason.


Comments
Richard Sat. Sep 26, 2009

Isn't it more likely that the people in this photograph have gone to the river to celebrate Tashlikh (casting bread into the river) on Rosh Ha'Shana?




Find us on Facebook!
  • Mazel tov to Idina Menzel on making Variety "Power of Women" cover! http://jd.fo/f3Mms
  • "How much should I expect him and/or ask him to participate? Is it enough to have one parent reciting the prayers and observing the holidays?" What do you think?
  • New York and Montreal have been at odds for far too long. Stop the bagel wars, sign our bagel peace treaty!
  • Really, can you blame them?
  • “How I Stopped Hating Women of the Wall and Started Talking to My Mother.” Will you see it?
  • Taglit-Birthright Israel is redefining who they consider "Jewish" after a 17% drop in registration from 2011-2013. Is the "propaganda tag" keeping young people away?
  • Happy birthday William Shakespeare! Turns out, the Bard knew quite a bit about Jews.
  • Would you get to know racists on a first-name basis if you thought it might help you prevent them from going on rampages, like the recent shooting in Kansas City?
  • "You wouldn’t send someone for a math test without teaching them math." Why is sex ed still so taboo among religious Jews?
  • Russia's playing the "Jew card"...again.
  • "Israel should deal with this discrimination against Americans on its own merits... not simply as a bargaining chip for easy entry to the U.S." Do you agree?
  • For Moroccan Jews, the end of Passover means Mimouna. Terbhou ou Tse'dou! (good luck) How do you celebrate?
  • Calling all Marx Brothers fans!
  • What's it like to run the Palestine International Marathon as a Jew?
  • Does Israel have a racism problem?
  • from-cache

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?




















We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.