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.


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:

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.


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

Larissa Leclair
INTERVIEW: “Robert Frank, Sarah Greenough and Joel Meyerowitz on ‘The Americans'” (2009) #photobc
(Also mentioned by David Campbell)

ESSAY: Robert Frank: The Americans on American Suburb X

Rich Beaubien
Might be a good time to revisit NPR’s story on Robert Frank and ‘The Americans’ #photobc

And if you haven’t seen it there’s “Frank’s ‘The Americans’ Elevator Girl Sees Herself ‘  #photobc
(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:

Matt Johnston
Shane Lavalette looks at the influence of Frank’s ‘The Americans’ on Danny Wilcox Frasier’s ‘Driftless’


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

Les Américains/The Americans

Robert Frank

Robert Delpire, 1958/Grove Press, 1959


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.

Welcome to The Photo Book Club

Announcing the launch of the Photo Book Club

The idea for the Photo Book Club which will launch on 28 February 2011, grew out of conversations between designer Wayne Ford and photographer Matt Johnston, with the encouragement of photographer and educator Jonathan Worth.

The premise for the Photo Book Club is a simple one, each month we will discuss one book that we consider to have made a significant contribution to the world of photography, this may be a well known volume, such as Robert Frank’s Les Américains/The Americans, (1958/1959), which will signal the launch of the Photo Book Club, or a lesser known, but no less important work.

At the beginning of each month we will post a brief introduction of our chosen book on the Photo Book Club website, followed by a more in-depth comment on the work, and through the comment section of the website we aim to create a platform through which we can discuss the impact of each body of work through, over the coming weeks.

Whilst Wayne and Matt, both have ideas for the books that we would like to feature, we want the Photo Book Club to be an open platform, for a community to evolve, so we actively encourage suggestions for books, and in other ways in which we can develop the conversation, we want to create a community where the photobook in its widest context can be discussed and appreciated.

Whilst we are initially launching the Photo Book Club as a blog, and as a Twitter feed, we are hoping that in the near future we can arrange the occasional physical meeting, and even some print content too.

The Photo Book Club