Robert Frank in America

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Robert Frank

Robert Frank was born in Zurich, Switzerland, in 1924 and emigrated to the United States in 1947. He is best known for his seminal book The Americans, first published in 1959, which gave rise to a distinctly new form of photobooks, and his experimental film Pull My Daisy, made in 1959. Frank’s other important projects include the books Black White and Things (1954), Lines of My Hand (1972), and the film Cocksucker Blues for the Rolling Stones (1972). He divides his time between New York City and Nova Scotia, Canada.

Robert Frank settles in the United States after World War II and begins his exploration of the world. After visiting Columbia and Peru, he lives in France between 1950 and 1953, and revives Eugène Atget’s manner with his street scenes depicting people seized in instant narratives. After returning to the United States in the mid-1950s, the Swiss photographer decides to travel on the country’s roads, using his camera where Jack Kerouac had utilized a type-machine. From then, he takes thousands of images and captures the authentic face of America with the book The Americans, a true depiction with no concerns about framings nor brightness, nothing but an intuitive iconography. Yet contemporary critics react with a mixture of scorn and outrage, accusing him of being anti-American as well as anti-photography as they refuse to see the anxiety and sadness Robert Frank dares to expose. In the early 1970s, he abandons photography for films about musicians such as the Rolling Stones or the Beatles. Yet after his daughter’s death in a plane crash in 1969 and his son’s drug addiction and schizophrenia (he would die in 1993), Robert Frank returns to photography more eager than ever to turn his despair into an intense introspection. Just as the Beat Generation did, by exploring the world, the photographer finally explored himself - ‘Why do you take all these pictures? - Because I’m alive.’

Peter Galassi

Peter Galassi is a graduate of Harvard University and a doctor of Art History and Archeology from Columbia University. Galassi is a scholar and curator whose principal fields are photography and nineteenth-century French art. He was Chief Curator of Photography at The Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) for two decades from 1991 to 2011. Having begun as a curatorial intern in 1974, and joining the photography department seven year later, he was only the fourth person to serve as Chief Curator when he took over from John Szarkowski in 1991. At MoMA he curated more than 40 exhibitions including Before Photography: Painting and the Invention of Photography (1981), Pleasures and Terrors of Domestic Comfort (1991), American Photography 1890–1965 (1995), Cindy Sherman: The Complete Untitled Film Stills (1997), and major surveys of Henri Cartier-Bresson (2010), Roy DeCarava (1996), Aleksandr Rodchenko (1998), Andreas Gursky (2001), Lee Friedlander (2005) and Jeff Wall (2007). Since leaving MoMA, he has been working on independent writing and curatorial projects, including the exhibition Robert Frank in America at Stanford’s Cantor Arts Center (2014). He is currently curator a Brassaï retrospective open at Fundación MAPFRE in Barcelona, 2018.

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