Robert Frank, whose raw, spontaneous images made him one of the most influential photographers of the 20th century, has died at the age of 94.
Born in Switzerland in 1924, Frank emigrated to the United States at the age of 23 and got his first job as a fashion photographer for Harper’s Bazaar magazine in New York.
His seminal work was “The Americans,” a book of photos first published in France as “Les Americains” in 1958. The book was the result of Frank’s extensive road trips across the US — including Chicago, Detroit, Los Angeles and New Orleans — to chronicle the daily lives of Americans from all walks of life.
Inconsistent with the standards of the time, the black-and-white photographs were initially not well-received and Frank found it hard to find a US publisher. Dark, raw, spontaneous and often off-center, the images kick-started the rise of the “snapshot aesthetic” of the 1960s.
“The Americans” was eventually released in the US in 1959 by Grove Press, with a selection of 83 shots from nearly 30,000 Frank had taken during his travels. It’s now regarded as a revolutionary work in photojournalism.
Jack Kerouac, whose famous novel “On the Road” was published two years earlier, wrote in the introduction: “With that little camera that he raises and snaps with one hand he sucked a sad poem right out of America onto film.”