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Robert Frank and Hugh Edwards correspondance

The following was added by William Allen, highlighting the correspondence between Robert Frank and Hugh Edwards following ‘The Americans’ (Curator of Prints, Drawing, and Photographs at the Art Institute of Chicago)

Robert Frank:

“It seems I made these photographs. I’m happy that they mean so much to you.”

“N.Y.C. May 1969 For Hugh Edwards  First with gratitude and respect to help + encourage when it mattered (1958) and now with regrets not to see in print your thoughts long before they became fashionable Your friend Robert.”

Those are inscriptions/dedications in The Americans, from Robert Frank to Hugh Edwards. Edwards was the Curator of Prints, Drawing, and Photographs at the Art Institute of Chicago. He gave quiet but effective support to emerging photographers, including Robert Frank. As Randy Kennedy put in the Times, Edwards was “a pioneering but still underappreciated curator.”

Frank had his first one-person show in a major venue at the Art Institute of Chicago in 1961. That was Robert Frank: Photographer and Hugh Edwards arranged the show. Here is the 1960 letter from Edwards inviting Frank to exhibit.

Hugh Edwards:

May 23, 1960
Mr. Robert Frank,
34 Third Avenue,
New York City, New York.

Dear Mr. Frank: It seems so long since I was in New York and talked with you on the telephone that I am afraid you have forgotten the conversations we had in regard to an exhibition. Since I came back to Chicago, I have been very busy and knew you had little time to be bothered with correspondence. However, I have not forgotten that you said you might be interested in a show and my experience with The Americans have been so many since my return that I am writing you at last, still with the hope that we may have an exhibition here.

In the last week I have completed an exhibition schedule so that I am able to give you, if you are still interested, some idea of when the show would take place. How would the period of April 28 through June 11 of next year suit you? I remember you said you would like to have some delay and although these dates-almost a year in the future-may seem distant, the time will pass much faster than we think.

I have had the museum store stock the American edition of your book. They have sold a number of copies and there is steady demand for it. We have both the French and American editions in the print room and they have been enthusiastically received by many young photographers who come here to look at the prints in our collection. This pleases me a great deal because no other book, except Walker Evans’ American Photographs, has given me so much stimulation and reassurance as to what I feel the camera was created for. I hope this does not have too pompous a sound for I feel your work is the most sincere and truthful attention paid to the American people for a long time. Although so different and not stemming from them, it may be kept in the company of Frank Norris, Sherwood Anderson, Hart Crane, Jon Dos Passos and Walker Evans and these are the best in American expression in the time I can remember. It is a real privilege to have known your pictures in their first freshness and newness. Someday they will spread to everyone and even the most sterile and analytical of intellectuals will except them at last.

I should greatly appreciate hearing from you as soon as possible in regard to what you think about the exhibition so that I may put it definitely in the schedule of exhibitions.

I hope to be in New York again, at least in the early fall, and talk with you again. As typewriters and telephones are instruments of inhibition for me, I regret I could not arrange a meeting during those days I was there this spring.

Yours sincerely,
Hugh Edwards, Curator of Photography.

The letter appears at http://bleakbeauty.com/edwards_letters.html . It is the second item, following an appreciation by Danny Lyon.

I want to thank David Travis, retired Head and Curator of the Department
of Photography at The Art Institute of Chicago, for sharing with me his
first-hand knowledge of the inscriptions of Robert Frank to Hugh
Edwards.
– William Allen

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