Frank became a professional industrial photographer at the age of 22 and in the 1940s became a successful fashion photographer for Harper’s Bazaar magazine in Paris. He felt, however, that the scope of the work was too limited.
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Robert Frank (November 9, 1924 – September 9, 2019) was a Swiss photographer and documentary filmmaker, who became an American binational. His most notable work, the 1958 book titled The Americans, earned Frank comparisons to a modern-day de Tocqueville for his fresh and nuanced outsider’s view of American society.
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Robert Frank began studying photography in 1941 and spent the next six years working for commercial photography and graphic design studios in Zurich, Geneva, and Basel. In 1947 he traveled to the United States, where Alexey Brodovitch hired him to make fashion photographs at Harper’s Bazaar.
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Frank became associated with the so-called ‘Beat Circle’, a group of poets, writers and artists – beatniks – who exemplified the apolitical, free-form spirit of post-war American existentialism.
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Robert Frank came to artistic eminence following the publication of his seminal book The Americans which is regarded to this day as one of the most influential photography projects of the 20th century.
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His most notable work, the 1958 book titled The Americans, earned Frank comparisons to a modern-day de Tocqueville for his fresh and nuanced outsider’s view of American society.
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With The Americans Frank had managed to initiate a seismic shift in attitudes towards art photography. To virtuosic effect, Frank used his camera to capture an unvarnished and unguarded cross-section of American society, and in so doing, he brought a new sense of liberation to the photographic medium.
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“ The Americans ” by Robert Frank is one of the most influential photo books published of all-time. It has inspired countless numbers of photographers across all genres, especially appealing to documentary and street photographers. I know the book has had a profound impact on my photography and how I approach projects.
Robert Frank’s restless, gritty, melancholic vision marked him as an astute documentarian of the postwar American landscape. Born into a German-Jewish family in Zurich in 1924, he developed an interest in photography at an early age and apprenticed with several photographers in his teens.
Robert Frank: Rare insights on the personal life of the revolutionary photographer
Robert Frank: The Experts’ Perspective
Robert Frank on photographing The Americans
Frequently Asked Questions
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professional industrial photographer