Synopsis: Richard Avedon – Observations (With comments by Truman Capote)

A note…

This month’s book ‘Observations’ is not easily accessible in your local library, nor is it affordable to most. But we consider it to be more than worthy of a Photo Book Club discussion, and so next week we will post a video looking through the book, making sure this incredible book is available to view by as many fans as possible!

Title
Observations

Author
Richard Avedon, with comments by Truman Capote

Publisher
Simon & Schuster, 1959

IMAGE ©RICHARDAVEDON.COM

Overview

Like Robert Frank’s ‘The Americans,’ which we discussed last month in the Photo Book Club, American photographer Richard Avedon’s first book, ‘Observations,’ was published in 1959. And, like ‘The Americans’ it was included in Andrew Roth’s ‘The Book of 101 Books: Seminal Photographic Books of the 20th Century (PPP Editions, 2001), now itself a seminal work on the history of the photographic book.

Having begun to take photographs during the Second World War, where he served in the Merchant Marine, Avedon became chief photographer of ‘Harper’s Bazaar’ in the late 1940s, where he helped redefine and elevate fashion photography to an art form, frequently taking his models out of the studio.

But Avedon’s first book did not focus on his fashion work, but on his iconic and penetrating portraits. In the 150 pages that form ‘Observations,’ with comments by the great American writer Truman Capote, we encounter the likes of Charlie Chaplin, John Huston, Alfred Hitchcock, The Duke and Duchess of Windsor, Arthur Miller, Pablo Picasso, Marilyn Monroe, Mae West, Judy Garland, Igor Stravinsky, Katherine Hepburn, Brigitte Bardot, Louis Armstrong, Humphrey Bogart, Buster Keaton, and many others.

Reflecting upon Avedon’s oeuvre, Maria Morris Hambourg recently wrote ‘By dint of progressive challenges to himself, Richard Avedon has not only distilled photographic portraiture to its irreducible core, but has also produced an extended meditation on life, death, art, and identity. Laureate of the invisible reflected in physiognomy, Avedon has become our poet of portraiture.’

Wayne Ford

Get involved

Let us know your thoughts by using the hashtag #photobc in Twitter or share links and blog posts in to comment section below.

Coming next…

Next week we will post a video, showing the book in all it’s glory to those who do not own, or have access to a copy (which is most of us!)

The Americans – A Summary

A huge thank you to all who have dropped by and especially those who have contributed in the first month of the Photo Book Club, looking at Robert Frank’s ‘The Americans’. We have compiled an archive of the posts below for future reference and will also be listed under the reading list page.

Please continue to share any links and further chatter around Frank’s masterpiece as we will keep updating the blog to provide an even better archive of information for future reference.

An American Journey – Film following Frank’s footsteps

Below is a short introduction and trailer to Philippe Séclier’s film ‘An American Journey’ which follows in the footsteps of Frank’s own journey. We are keen to hear from any who have seen the film and could offer their comments? The DVD is available here.

UPDATE: A excerpt of Rich Beaubien’s review for the film is shown below. His full review can be seen in the comments section. Big thanks to Rich for this!

In contemporary photography, everybody agrees there is a “before” and an “after” The Americans, Robert Frank’s 1958 photographic manifesto.

Half a century later, French director Philippe Séclier decided to follow in Robert Frank’s footsteps to explore the spirit of the “Beat Generation” and the impact of his book, The Americans, not only on the art of photography, but also on american culture.

From Texas to Montana, from Nebraska to Louisiana, from New York to San Francisco, An American Journey is a 15,000 miles odyssey through contemporary America, moving between past and present, photography and cinema, and two Americas, separated by time.

Though I’ve picked up many ideas about visual structure from cinematographers and films I’m just not a regular movie-goer so my not having seen this film is both typical and true but seeing a Twitter message come across my screen from the folks here at The Photo Book Club piqued my interest.

Philippe Séclier’s engaging, one hour long, documentary starts out as a film about the making of a book. Séclier spent two years (2005-2007) retracing the Frank travels around the United States interweaving interviews with attempts to revisit a handful of the book’s most famous photos.

San Francisco-area photographer Wayne Morris describes how Frank made a ‘first cut’ by actually cutting individual frames from strips of negatives and skipped making contact sheets. Anne Tucker the curator at the Museum of Fine Arts in Houston, Texas thumbs through the dummy of the book made by Robert Frank in 1957.

Sarah Greenough, a curator at the National Gallery of Art and curator of the exhibition Looking in: Robert Frank’s The Americans and editor of the catalogue, is seen thumbing through some beautiful photographs that Frank did not to include in his book. “He could have made an even more negative view of America,” she says.

Stuart Alexander speaks of the initial critical reception of The Americans that the photos were not about “all” Americans and maybe “Some Americans” was more appropriate.But the film isn’t really about Robert Frank or The Americans it’s about Séclier’s view of America and as Ed Ruscha acknowledges in the film, “It takes an outsider, really, to show us what’s it all about. We don’t know ourselves.”

I recommend the film for those you haven’t seen it. It’s only an hour and if you are familiar with Robert Frank’s ‘The Americans’ it will be a well spent enjoyable hour.

– Rich Beaubien

The Americans in Context – John Edwin Mason

This post, looking at ‘The Americans in Context’ has been written by John Edwin Mason is a writer and photographer who teaches African history and the history of photography at the University of Virginia. You can read his fantastic blog here and follow John on twitter here. A big thank you to John for this contribution, if anyone else would like to write on the Photo Book Club, pop us an email.

Robert Frank’s The Americans:  Some Notes on Context
John Edwin Mason

Wayne Ford’s perceptive comments about the ways in which The Americans was received, when it appeared in the United States, have got me thinking about the historical context within which Frank made and published his photographs.  That context — riddled as it is with complexities and contradictions — can itself suggest a series of commentaries about both the photographs and the ways in which people responded to them.

Wayne is quite right when he says that, on the whole, that American reactions to the book were initially hostile.  While the New York Times was ambivalent (conceding that Frank had talent), most reviews were unambiguously negative.  J. Hoberman has summed it up nicely:  “…[most] Americans took The Americans personally.  The book was characterized as ‘sick,’ ‘warped,’ ‘joyless,’ ‘dishonest,’ ‘sad,’ ‘neurotic,’ ‘marred by spite, bitterness, and narrow prejudice.’  Coming from a foreigner, the title was an insult.  Why not ‘Some Americans?’”

Covered car, Long Beach - California ©ROBERT FRANK

It’s not hard to understand where this hostility was coming from.  The nation that confronted people, when they opened the pages of The Americans, was anything but the “Shining City on the Hill” that so many have so often imagined it to be.  Instead, the country was a dystopia, its citizens alternately menacing, menaced, or estranged.  The photos often reveal racial hierarchies and class stratification.  In many of them, fear, anger, and suppressed rage — sometimes masked by a boisterous bravado — seem to linger just below the surface.  Frank wasn’t making any of this up, and people knew it.  They hated him for showing it to them.

If Frank’s Americans seemed to be beset with both tangible and existential anxieties, we can understand why.  Early victories in the African-American civil rights movement destabilized the old certainties of white supremacy.  Suburbanization disrupted established communities and broke families apart.  Cars choked the highways.  Post-war prosperity failed to eliminate poverty.  Always present, but largely unseen were the Cold War and its threat of nuclear annihilation.

Charleston - South Carolina ©ROBERT FRANK

No one who had read The Americans would have been surprised by what was to come a few short years later — the assassinations (the Kennedys, Martin Luther King, Malcolm X), the urban rebellions of African-American youth, and the disastrous escalation of the Vietnam War.

Ranch Market - Hollywood ©ROBERT FRANK

Then as now, however, there were many Americas and many sorts of Americans.  Frank didn’t capture them all and couldn’t have, even if he had tried.  As a result, people had a point when they said that the book was actually about “some Americans.”

Frank saw the darkness in the American soul, but he rarely captured the light.  The years during which he shot, edited, and published The Americans — 1955 to 1959 — belonged as much to Elvis Presley and Chuck Berry as to anyone else.  They were the commercial avatars of a cultural revolution that was leaving few aspects of American life untouched.  This was the decade of rock ‘n’ roll, civil rights, abstract expressionism, and the Beats.  Rosa Parks and Martin Luther King, Allen Ginsberg and James Baldwin, Jackson Pollack and Jasper Johns, James Dean and Marilyn Monroe could all lay a claim to it.  Coincidentally, if not ironically, Disneyland opened in a Los Angeles suburb just a few months before Frank passed through town.

Movie Premiere - Hollywood ©ROBERT FRANK

The ’50s were as exuberant as they were bleak, but we rarely see this in Frank’s photos.  (Interestingly, Jack Kerouac, who wrote an introduction for the US edition of The Americans, managed to capture some of both qualities in his early novels.)  Nobody relying on The Americans for their knowledge of the US would have anticipated much of what was to come next — the successes of the civil rights and anti-Vietnam War movements, the emergence of women’s and environmental (Green) movements, not to mention hippies, Woodstock, and bell bottom jeans.  Frank’s America hadn’t disappeared, as Richard Nixon’s victory in the 1972 presidential election made perfectly clear.  It was, however, one America among many.

It does nothing to diminish Frank’s achievement to say that the truths he captured in The Americans are partial and contingent, rather than comprehensive and absolute.  The insights are powerful, the photographs are beautiful, and we cannot plausibly ask for anything more.  The book remains essential reading and viewing for anyone who wants to understand the history of photography or the nature of American society in the 1950s.


The Americans – by Andreas Schmidt

Thanks to ‘Here on the Web‘ for sharing the link to Andreas Schmidt’s book ‘The Americans’ in which Schmidt has sourced 83 images from Google to create a current version of Frank’s work. You can see a full preview of the book as well as purchase it, from blurb here.

Andreas Schmidt - The Americans

We would love to hear from anyone who has the book themselves – pop us an email mail@photobookclub.org

Schmidt’s Synopsis:

“Few books in the history of photography have had as powerful an impact as The Americans”, said The New York Times about Robert Frank’s photobook first published in 1958. More than 50 years later and made entirely without the help of a Guggenheim fellowship comes Andreas Schmidt’s take on a portrait of America. Selected from over 20 million photographs found on Google images, 83 photographs tell a story of contemporary America – pictures of normal people, everyday scenes, lunch counters, bus depots and cars, and the strangely familiar faces of people we don’t quite know but have seen somewhere. They are pictures showing the “American way of life” as we haven’t yet quite been able to see it ourselves, photographs that condense the entire life of a nation in classic images that speak to us today, and in another 50 years to come.

The Americans – Your Personal Reminiscence?


©ROBERT FRANK

At The Photo Book Club we are really keen to hear your stories about Robert Frank’s ‘The Americans’. After hearing Rich Beaubien’s personal reminiscence last week (link) it got us thinking about how others first came across the book, what it has meant to them, how it has inspired people and even whether people have traveled to some of the sites in the book to recreate images?

As always you can get involved by using the hashtag #photobc in Twitter, or use the comments section below.

Matt Johnston

I first read The Americans in my first year at University, as my fascination with American photography began. It sat in between Lange’s ‘An American Exodus’ and Clark’s ‘Tulsa’ on my reading list and was exactly what i had, unknowingly, been looking for. Through 83 images Frank showed a nation in birth, death, rest and work, captured a time in history, and for me, captured a picture that stretched far beyond its own decade.

There are very few books that keep me as interested and intrigued as The Americans, which I must have read The Americans in part or in full, at least 8 times that same week. I loved noticing different images each time, spotting the humorous touches i had missed previously and analysing the expressions on Frank’s characters and extras, which is how i saw it at the time – as a film of a time passed. I had no reference to America or the 70’s.

As my understanding of the context in which The Americans was produced grew, I lingered longer on images previously ignored. I read more into the sequencing of the images, took note of the locations and developed a better understanding of what Frank had captured. I stopped seeing the America i wanted to see and started to see the America that Frank saw, as a photographer and outsider.

Yet, like Niall commented, I like my first view of the book best. Where I skipped through the cocktail parties, commencement speeches and political rallies (falling in love with the elevator girl on the way) to spend my time looking at the cowboy hats, cigarettes, jukebox’s and endless roads.

Niall McDiarmid

My first copy of this, was a free give away with a subscription to the glossy Condé Nast magazine, Vanity Fair. I still have the battered paperback copy and although I have bought the hardback and the expanded version since, I prefer my first view of the book. Not surprisingly those Vanity Fair’s have long since hit the recycling bin.

The book, to me, transcends the idea of it being a photobook, mostly because it’s so important, it’s not about photography any more. It’s called The Americans and that’s what it is – a book about America and the American people in the 1950s. To me there is no complicated story behind the images, there’s no nuanced discussions on photography techniques or colour reproduction, yet it seems to sum up a whole decade in 83 pictures.

I love the idea that is was considered controversial and derogatory at the time yet today it’s considered a great documentary of America’s most important time. Nice work Robert, your can take your place up there with Woody Guthrie, Bob Dylan and Bruce Springsteen in my book!

Rich Beaubien

I grew up in the US during the 1950’s and came of age during the tumultuous 60’s. Frank’s book documents the middle of the 1950’s and was released just prior to the explosive 1960’s decade. I found my first copy of The Americans in a second-hand bookstore sometime in the early 1970. It was Kerouac’s name on the cover that first enticed me (I was born and raised in Kerouac’s home town), in the end it was the photographs that captured me. I wasn’t sure what I had, but the evocative images struck me from the beginning. The careful sequencing (where I learned how story telling takes shape) and the format, with the blank facing pages, lends itself well to close inspection of each photo. There has always been, at least for me, both a subtleness and strong articulation in the images. Plus they all have some sort of interesting angle and often carry some humor. When looking at these images I often get transported as an observer back in time to the moment, becoming part of what is happening. These photographs captured the breadth this country as it entered a pivotal decade of the 20th century – the hope, difficulties, feelings, tension, and insecurities.

I guess this became more of a rambling personal reminiscence, than a review. Still, it was inspirational in my own development in that I realized for the first time of the possibilities capturing someone in public. I never saw a photograph the same way again.

Wayne Ford

I first encountered Robert Frankʼs ʻThe Americansʼ as a young graphic design student in
the early 1980s. It wasnʼt a book I had been encouraged to seek out by my photography
lecturer — although he did point me in the direction of many wonderful photographers,
such as Bill Brandt, who continue to inspire me to this day — but a book I discovered by
chance as I browsed the small photography section in the art school library.

As a 16 year-old student my knowledge of America was based upon what I had seen and
read in the newspaper colour supplements, documentaries, and through stereo-typical
television series, but here in this small format book, was a series of gritty black-and-white
photographs that offered me a very different, and unique perspective of America that I had
nor seen encountered before.

Having spent the day looking at the book in the library, and seeking more information on
this unknown (to me at least) Swiss photographer called Robert Frank, I checked the book
out of the library for the maximum period allowed, two brief weeks, which just flew by.

I was rarely without the book, picking it up and browsing the pages as often as I could, and
after two weeks I returned the book to library, only to check it straight out again, a pattern
that I repeated over the next year, each time I returned to the library hoping, no one else
had asked to look at the book.

A year after I first encountered the work of Robert Frank and ʻThe Americansʼ I found a
secondhand copy in a local bookstore, and parted with a not insubstantial amount of my
small student grant, it wasnʼt the first photobook I purchased, but it was the first book of
photography that I purchased whose energy continues to excite me to this day.

Editions and History: Robert Frank – Les Américains/The Americans

The History

In June, 1955, Robert Frank purchased a five year-old Ford Business Coupe in New York, this purchase would signal the start of a road trip, that would first see the Swiss-born photographer drive alone to Detroit, then in late Summer south to Savannah and Miami Beach, before heading to St. Petersburg, and New Orleans, an then on to Houston, for a rendezvous with his wife Mary, and their two children, Pablo and Andrea. Together, they would drive west arriving in Los Angeles shortly before Christmas. They remained on the Pacific coast until May 1956, when Mary and the children returned to New York, leaving Frank to continue his 10,000 mile trip alone. His route took him via Reno to Salt Lake City, before joining U.S. 91 to Butte, Montana, then through Wyoming, Nebraska, and Iowa, before arriving in Chicago, where he turned south, arriving back in New York in July.

In just over a year, Frank exposed more than 760 rolls of film, producing some 27,000 photographs, and on his return to New York, he began the mammoth task of editing his work. Over the next few months he selected and printed 1000 work prints, which he pinned to the wall of his Third Avenue apartment, or laid on the floor, slowly editing these prints to just 100, and then the 83 that would make up the final sequence of Les Américains (Robert Delpire, 1958).

Frank received an advance of $200 for The Americans (by the end of the year the was book out of print, and this sum had risen to $817), the road trip itself had been financed by a Guggenheim  Fellowship. His application to the John Simon Guggenheim Foundation in the autumn of 1954 listed five supporters, including the legendary art director of Harper’s Bazaar, Alexey Brodovitch (1898-1971), who had hired Frank as an assistant photographer, when he first arrived in New York from Switzerland in 1947, and the great photographers Walker Evans (1903-1975) and Edward Steichen (1879-1973).

Frank’s application stated his aim was to record ‘what one naturalised American finds to see in the United States that signifies the kind of civilisation born here and spreading elsewhere.’ It is worth remember that at this point Frank was not yet a naturalised citizen of the United States (he was awarded US citizenship in 1963, to which he remarked ‘Ich bin ein Amerikaner’), and Evans had a hand a significant hand in drafting the written application.

Like many great works, the initial reaction to The Americans was scathing, with condemnation coming think and fast, ‘A Degradation of a Nation!’; ‘a sad poem for sick people,’ the editors of Popular Photography where so incensed they published no fewer than seven reviews in the May 1959 issue, with just one proving ‘unreservedly admiring,’ in short The Americans, was viewed as un-American. But this was short lived, with more editions and reprints of this book being published than possibly any other photobook, reflecting the significance and influence of Frank’s seminal work.

Key Editions

•    Les Américains, Robert Delpire, 1958
•    Gli Americani, Il Saggiatore, 1959 (Italian edition)
•    The Americans, Grove, 1959 (Introduction by Jack Kerouac)
•    The Americans, Aperture, 1968
•    The Americans, Aperture, 1969
•    The Americans, Aperture, 1978
•    Les Américains, Robert Delpire, 1985 (French translation of Kerouac’s introduction)
•    The Americans, Pantheon, 1986
•    Die Amerikaner, Christian Verlag, 1986 (German edition)
•    Amerikanzu: Robato Furanku shashinshu, Takara-jimasha, 1993 (Japanese edition)
•    The Americans, Cornerhouse, 1993
•    The Americans, Scalo, 1993
•    The Americans, Scalo, 1998
•    The Americans, Steidl, 2008 (50th anniversary edition)
•    Die Amerikaner, Steidl, 2008 (German edition)
•    The Americans, Steidl, 2008 (First Mandarin edition)

Other books by Robert Frank

Where possible, Amazon links have been provided

•    Hold Still – Keep Going, Steidl, 2011
•    Tal uf Tal Ab, Steidl, 2010
•    Portfolio: 40 Photos 1941/1946,  Steidl, 2009
•    Frank Films: The Film and Video Work of Robert Frank, Steidl, 2009
•    Seven Stories, Steidl, 2009
•    Black White and Things, Steidl, 2009 (re-issue)
•    Paris, Steidl, 2008
•    Zero Mostel Reads a Book, Steidl, 2008
•    Pull My Daisy, Steidl, 2008
•    Peru, Steidl, 2008
•    Me and My Brother, Steidl, 2007
•    One Hour, Steidl, 2007
•    Come Again, Steidl, 2006
•    New York to Nova Scotia, Steidl, 2005
•    Storylines, Steidl, 2004
•    Frank Films: The Film and Video Work of Robert Frank, Scalo, 2004
•    London/Wales, Scalo, 2003
•    Hold Still – Keep Going, Scalo, 2001
•    One Hour, Hanuman Books, 1998
•    Flamingo, Scalo, 1997
•    Thank You, Scalo, 1996
•    Black White and Things, Scalo, 1995 (Facsimilie of 1952 edition)
•    Robert Frank: Moving Out, Scalo, 1995
•    The Lines of My Hand, Distributed Art Partners, 1995
•    Black White and Things, 3Nishen Publishing, 1991
•    The Lines of My Hand, Parkett/Der Alltag, 1989 (revised edition)
•    The Lines of My Hand, Random House, 1989
•    Flower is…, Yugensha, Kazuhiko Motomura (Tokyo, limited edition of 500)
•    Thats Life, self-published, 1980
•    The Lines of My Hand, Lustrum Press, 1972 (condensed edition)
•    The Lines of My Hand, Yugensha, Kazuhiko Motomura, 1972 (Tokyo)
•    Me and My Brother, a handmade/promotional book for film of same name, 1965
•    Zero Mostel Reads a Book, New York Times, 1963
•    Pull My Daisy, Grove Press, 1961

Wayne Ford

Further reading

Looking In: Robert Frank’s The Americans, Expanded Edition, Steidl, 2008.

Links, comments and suggestions

We thought it would be useful to have a place where all the great suggestions, comments and links can be seen easily. Below are the thoughts shared so far about Robert Frank’s ‘The Americans’. Keep them coming through the hashtag #photobc in Twitter or share links and blog posts in to comment section below.

Comments

Steve Goldenberg
There was a show of all 83 images at the Corcoran Gallery of art in DC a year or so ago. Just amazing.#photobc

Thing that sticks with me most about The Americans is contrast b/w how familiar the imagery looks but how foreign the images feel #photobc

Rich Beaubien
I grew up in the US during the 1950’s and came of age during the tumultuous 60’s. Frank’s book documents the middle of the 1950’s and was released just prior to the explosive 1960’s decade. I found my first copy of The Americans in a second-hand bookstore sometime in the early 1970. It was Kerouac’s name on the cover that first enticed me (I was born and raised in Kerouac’s home town), in the end it was the photographs that captured me. I wasn’t sure what I had, but the evocative images struck me from the beginning. The careful sequencing (where I learned how story telling takes shape) and the format, with the blank facing pages, lends itself well to close inspection of each photo. There has always been, at least for me, both a subtleness and strong articulation in the images. Plus they all have some sort of interesting angle and often carry some humor. When looking at these images I often get transported as an observer back in time to the moment, becoming part of what is happening. These photographs captured the breadth this country as it entered a pivotal decade of the 20th century – the hope, difficulties, feelings, tension, and insecurities.

I guess this became more of a rambling personal reminiscence, than a review. Still, it was inspirational in my own development in that I realized for the first time of the possibilities capturing someone in public. I never saw a photograph the same way again.

John Edwin Mason
There’s a lot of good audio on the website of the National Gallery of Art, in Washington, DC, which mounted a major exhibition on The Americans (and including Frank’s entire career) in 2009.

You’ll find an hour-long conversation between Frank (in very good humor) and Sarah Greenough, plus other talks by Greenough, Stephen Brooke, Martin Gasser, Olivier Lugon, and Alan Trachtenberg, among others. Here’s the link:
http://www.nga.gov/exhibitions/frankinfo.shtm

My favorite edition of The Americans might be Looking In: Robert Frank’s The Americans, which was the catalog for the National Gallery exhibition. It contains, besides the usual scholarly essays, reproductions of the contact sheets on which each of the photos in the book appears. And there are few things in the world more fascinating that a great photographer’s contact sheets.

Looking In also contains some of the photos that didn’t make it into the book. It’s wonderful to see what made the cut and what didn’t.

Thanks for putting this together, gents. Should be fun.

Links

Brian David Stevens
EXHIBITION: Some contact sheets from the Americans are up at the Tate Modern at the moment. must admit I prefer Frank’s Paris more at the moment
http://www.tate.org.uk/servlet/CollectionDisplays?venueid=2&roomid=5626

Larissa Leclair
INTERVIEW: “Robert Frank, Sarah Greenough and Joel Meyerowitz on ‘The Americans'” (2009) #photobc
http://www.americansuburbx.com/2011/03/interview-robert-frank-sarah-greenough.html
(Also mentioned by David Campbell)

ESSAY: Robert Frank: The Americans on American Suburb X http://www.americansuburbx.com/2009/01/theory-robert-franks-america.html

Rich Beaubien
Might be a good time to revisit NPR’s story on Robert Frank and ‘The Americans’ #photobc
http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=100688154

And if you haven’t seen it there’s “Frank’s ‘The Americans’ Elevator Girl Sees Herself ‘  #photobc
http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=112389032
(Also shared by Matt Dunn)

John Edwin Mason
You’ll find an hour-long conversation between Frank (in very good humor) and Sarah Greenough, plus other talks by Greenough, Stephen Brooke, Martin Gasser, Olivier Lugon, and Alan Trachtenberg, among others. Here’s the link:
http://www.nga.gov/exhibitions/frankinfo.shtm

Matt Johnston
Shane Lavalette looks at the influence of Frank’s ‘The Americans’ on Danny Wilcox Frasier’s ‘Driftless’
http://www.shanelavalette.com/journal/2008/02/11/danny-wilcox-frazier-driftless/

Suggestions

Larissa Leclair
I would be interested to hear a discussion about the initial criticism for the book when it was published in the US and a discussion on how the sentiment changed to be lauded as such an influential book.

In Reply – Pete Brook
I think Larissa’s wish to read criticism upon the release of ‘The Americans’ is tantalising. I’d like to see those reviews too.

Iain Sarjeant
Congrats on the launch of @photobookclub – would love to see Keld Helmer-Petersen discussed in the future #photobc

Brian David Stevens
Maybe a future discussion on what great photobooks are out of print and why that is….?

Henry Iddon
Its not photography but Colour by Derek Jarman is a brilliant book that should be read by anyone in visual arts.

Synopsis: Robert Frank – Les Américains/The Americans

Title
Les Américains/The Americans

Author
Robert Frank

Publisher
Robert Delpire, 1958/Grove Press, 1959

Overview

Robert Frank’s (1924-) Les Américains, was first published by Robert Delpire on 15 May 1958, the 83 black-and-white photographs had been taken by the Swiss born photographer on a road trip across America he took between 1955 and 1956, and where accompanied by a text on the social and political history of America by Alain Bosquet. Each of Frank’s photographs is placed on a right-hand page, with Bosquet’s text on the left, with the edition forming part of the Encyclopédie essentielle series, which aimed to present foreign countries to a French audience.

In 1959, the first English edition of The Americans was published by Grove Press, New York (released in January 1960), it retained the same visual sequence as the Delpire edition, but replaced Bosquet’s text with an introduction by the poet and novelist Jack Kerouac (1922-1969), whilst the right-hand opposite Frank’s photographs had captions by the photographer, which describe the location of the image.

Although widely criticised when the book was launched in the United States, this seminal work, has since 1959, been published in numerous editions and become, one could argue, the most influential photobook of all time.

Wayne Ford

Get involved

Let us know your thoughts by using the hashtag #photobc in Twitter or share links and blog posts in to comment section below.

Coming next…

Later this week Wayne will take a look at the key editions of ‘The Americans’ as well as the history of the initial project and subsequent books.

Get the book

The current English language version of Frank’s ‘The Americans’ published by Steidl is available from the Amazon link below or from many other book stores.