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Wednesday, 11 September 2019


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Indeed, the old style photography has gone into abeyance. Some still remain but few people are seriously paying attention.

This era is one for the photo-artists.

My guess is that the next era will involve some form of artificial intelligence for the masses to take, modify, enhance, and create photos.

NYT had excellent article on RF in June 2015, as I recall.

I am only too happy to have a dig at the Guardian but this is the last paragraph of Frank's obituary:

"He grew increasingly reclusive but emerged for specific commissions, such as the 1996 music video for Patti Smith’s Summer Cannibals. He continued exhibiting and curated a major retrospective of his work, entitled Moving Out, for the National Gallery of Art in Washington in 1994. Tate Modern in London held the first major UK exhibition of Frank’s work in 2004. The 50th anniversary of the publication of The Americans was celebrated with a new edition in 2008, for which Frank reframed and cropped many of the images."

I can't find a mention of that wrong note but I am supposed to be working right now...

Robert’s quote is poignant for him. Its like expecting a favorite rock band to only play their greatest hits with no further exploration of the art form.

"I kinda hate that the Guardian ended his obituary on that quote. Wrong note to sound."

Agreed. Kerouac's "You got eyes" would have been a better choice.

I live in Nova Scotia and have driven through Mabou quite a few times. I was always tempted to go looking for Mr. Frank when I was in the area, but I somehow expect he would not have appreciated the visit.

The Guardian's decision carry's some irony - journalism has similarly moved on from 1959. Currently it is more important than ever to
publish statements, headlines and opinions in ways designed to drive online debate - the more heated the better.

But there is still a place for thoughtful journalism. Thoughtful Photography. Meaningful art.

And (thankfully) there is even room for thoughtful blogs about the art of photography...

I remember reading how he and a friend concluded a raucous evening of drinking and partying by joyously tearing up and burning original prints from The Americans. I also remember repeatedly struggling to stay awake at a showing of Cocksucker Blues. Regardless, his position is secure- he changed photography, forever...

There are too many pictures now. It’s overwhelming.

Sounds to me like he speaking about photography in general—not about himself.

He's right you know, the amount of photos on Facebook is overwhelming. To paraphrase The Boss: There's 57,000,000 photo fora, and nothin' on.

Gotta say that I'll likely be an outlier in thinking that his photos leave me cold. I can't see what all the adoration is/was about.
Flame away.

I totally agree with you, Mike. The work Frank did in The Americans was seminal, influential, and essential. As a photography student at San Francisco Art Institute in the mid-70s, I saw many students running around with their Leica M3 cameras, trying to "do" Frank. (None of them, nor any of the legions of students doing similar work at all the other schools, succeeded.)

Even Robert Frank did not do 1950s Robert Frank photography anymore. Hadn't for many decades. Anyone who has kept up with him and his work since knows that. He knew that kind of photography was "old and gone" in terms of what he wanted, needed, to do soon after The Americans was published. He moved into film, then back to stills, then video, and so on. His oeuvre reflects his life, which was not static.

Robert Frank well understood Jack Kerouac's comment on fame: "It feels like old newspapers blowing down Bleeker Street."

Well, all I can say is that his work was a big influence on me. Can’t say anything I do reaches the level of his work, but “imitation is the sincerest form of flattery...”

The Guardian UK edition doesn't end on that note.

Also, Neil Montanus died, https://www.nytimes.com/2019/09/09/business/neil-montanus-dead.html and so did the fantastic Fred Herzog https://vancouversun.com/news/local-news/noted-vancouver-photographer-fred-herzog-dies-at-age-88

More greats passing every year.

Update: The National Gallery of Art has an impressive collection of Robert Frank's works (photographs, contact sheets, etc...).

Here is a link to the section that covers work he did in Nova Scotia and New York, 1971-2005. The work speaks for itself, as his work always has.


There are several pieces on Frank in the Guardian of 10th & 11th but the one you reference (ending with “too many pictures”) is not the obituary, which is at https://www.theguardian.com/artanddesign/2019/sep/10/robert-frank-obituary

There will now be “RF,” “Robert,” “The Robert,”, “Frank,” and so on, named wrist straps, neck straps, bags, and perhaps even a “Robert Frank” Leica M. A scotch blend will be named after him.

Pictures from “The Americans” will adorn cloth shopping bags, T-shirts, be featured in an upcoming Marvel movie, and his home will be a destination for Instagram influencers. Obsolete? Not yet.

Hey, everything’s good. Right?

I was lucky enough to attend an opening for his work in Halifax in 2014 (a retrospective of his books and films), attended by the man himself. And, while I was able to grab a couple distant snaps of his short talk, I did not muster the courage to say hello. (What would I even have said?)

After the hubbub of the opening, we went to dinner and, shortly after sitting down, realised that we were sat at the table adjacent to him and a few other people. Again, what would I have done other than interrupt his meal with some inane 'love your work'-type drivel?

But, to have dined adjacent to an artist of his stature was a small treat.

The local CBC station ran an article on him this morning that interviewed a photography professor, who said he (Frank) would stop by the school occasionally to look through students' contact sheets (rarely the final prints) to see how they were working. In his typical bluntness, as you mentioned, some students were glad to have had him stop by and comment on their work, whereas others were... less so.

Keep in mind, too, that this is a man who lost all his children. That would make photography seem stale & inconsequential in comparison.

Personally, if I was forced to have only one book of photography, it would be "The Americans". It is what got me into photography.

I rather liked the Guardian obituary and felt it brought some genuine insights into Frank's life and work. Frank had moved to other fields a long time ago, and I felt that by quoting those resigned remarks from his later years, the Guardian article sharpened our appreciation of Frank's refusal to stand still. This wasn't a reflection on photography, it was a revelation about Robert Frank. The obituary made me think afresh about the man, and for that I am grateful.

He wasn’t the kind of person to repeat himself, so for him, yes, that type of photography was (is) over.

An obituary from Le Temps (Swiss daily newspaper) gives a much more positive outlook from him that this Guardian quote.

It says: "with my name, I can go anywhere and give a conference, in Australia or in an art school in the USA, and what's most beautiful, most inspiring is to see what the others do, the young ones. There are always new ways of expression that matter more to me that talking about myself and my work. The video tools have really help the young ones to express in a more precise manner, it's an excellent revealer".

It's at the end of this article: https://www.letemps.ch/opinions/robert-frank-bout-pellicule
But I can't find where exact quote was taken from. So...sorry for the rough French to English translation ;)

It's been a bad week for photography. Fred Herzog, the amazing Vancouver street photography died Monday at age 88: https://www.straight.com/arts/1300236/fame-came-late-vancouver-street-photographer-fred-herzog-who-died-monday-88

Ack! How could I forget, the opening was also attended by Herr Steidl as well, who did most of the speaking.

Fred Herzog died on the same day, aged 88. I only discovered him thanks to TOP. He never had the influence of Robert Frank, but could be rightly recognised as one of the colour pioneers.

If you don't like the US edition of the Gruniard, all you have to do is click on the drop-down list at the top of the page and select the UK or Austrlian edition.

The NYT is certainly giving Mr. Frank a proper send-off. A full two-page obituary, followed up with some long pieces discussing his work and influence on photography (Thursday's piece was printed off-register, though).

Frank's frank remark about the end of his sort of photography seems to me to be the same as Cartier-Bresson's statements about giving up photography for drawing.... They moved on. Their own drummer. That's part of what brought such quality to their work - a point of view that gave us a glimpse of truth in our world. They knew where to stand and what time it was. And their work lives on for us. Even in the blinding hurricane of images that daily life erodes our senses with quantity.

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