Monday, September 28, 2009

Jill Krementz Photo Journal - Robert Frank

Robert Frank at Democratic National Convention, July 15, 1984. Photographed by Jill Krementz.

What I have in mind, then, is observation and record of what one naturalized American finds to see in the United States that signifies the kind of civilization born here and spreading elsewhere.
Looking In: Robert Frank’s The Americans
The Metropolitan Museum
September 22, 2009 - January 3, 2010

Somber people and black events
Quiet people and peaceful places
And the things people have come in contact with
This, I try to show in my photographs

Robert Frank is one of the great living masters of photography. His seminal book, The Americans, captured a culture on the brink of upheaval.

To celebrate the 50th anniversary of the book’s publication in this country, the Met has mounted an exhibition featuring more than 100 vintage photographs as well as contact sheets, rough work prints, letters and relevant books.

The show was organized by Sarah Greenough and first mounted at the National Gallery of Art in Washington D.C. This beautiful exhibit at the Met is curated by Jeff L. Rosenheim.

The Museum will present a concert by Patti Smith on October 17 titled A Salute to Robert Frank, Artist and Friend.
The Americans by Robert Frank, first published in France in 1958 and in the United States in 1959, changed the course of 20th-century photography and helped the nation see itself more clearly. In 83 photographs, Frank looked beneath the surface of American life to reveal a people often plagued by racism, ill-served by their politicians, and rendered numb by a rapidly expanding consumer culture. Yet he also found new areas of beauty in overlooked corners of the country and in the process helped redefine America's icons.
Jeff Rosenheim, Curator, Department of Photographs at the Met.
Early Work, 1941-53.
Frank made this romantic album of photographs for his first wife, Mary Lockspeiser, a dancer and artist whom he married in 1950. The book presents a series of impressions of Paris. In it Frank also explored a different way of relating photographs to one another, arranging them in collagelike fashion that shows the influence of contemporary magazines. For the first time, he incorporated words into the album, writing short inscriptions on most pages.
A letter from Robert Frank to Mary, his first wife. Letter from Robert Frank to Walker Evans, May 1956.
More letters on display.
Work Prints, 1956. Collage of gelatin silver prints, assembled 2008, National Gallery of Art, Robert Frank Collection. There are no surviving photographs of Frank's studio during the production of The Americans. The collage seen here is based on research and the artist's recollections. Frank annotated each of his works with the corresponding number of its roll of film and contact sheet then spread them out on the floor and tacked or stapled them to the walls of his apartment. He grouped the prints by the large themes he wanted his book to address: race, religion, politics, the media, cars, consumer culture, and the changing American landscape. Eventually, Frank eliminated any photographs he thought were weak, banal, too obvious, or even too harsh and gradually reduced the 1,000 work prints to slightly fewer than a hundred.
Thomas Campbell, Director of the Metropolitan Museum.
Frank sought to reveal "the kind of civilization born here and spreading elsewhere." As Jack Kerouac wrote in his introduction, Frank, "with the agility, mystery, genius, sadness,, and strange secrecy of a shadow photographed scenes that have never been seen before on film ... The humor, the sadness, the EVERYTHING-ness and American-ness of these pictures!"
Jack Kerouac's first draft for his introduction to Robert Frank's The Americans.
Frank's contact sheets take us back to the moment he made the photographs for The Americans. They show us what he saw as traveled around the United States in 1955 and 1956 and how he responded to it.
Americans 36, U.S. 285, New Mexico, 1955.
In his introduction to The Americans, Kerouac describes this photograph as "a long shot of night road arrowing forlorn into immensities and flat of impossible-to-believe America in New Mexico under the prisoner's moon."
Untitled, 1989. Mixed media with gelatin silver prints and thermal transfer prints. In his1985 video Home Improvements Frank commented on the growing commercialization of photography by filming a friend drilling holes through a large stack of his old photographs, including several from The Americans. A few years later, he wrapped them in wire and nailed them onto a piece of plywood.
In 1955-56, with funding from a Guggenheim Fellowship, the young photographer undertook a 10,000-mile Beat-inflected journey across more than 30 states. While chriscrossing the U.S., Frank made more than 27,000 photographs.
Books on sale, available just outside the exhibition.
The show's catalogue, Looking In. Clothbound (Expanded Edition), $75; Paperbound, $45.
At the Press Preview: Christine Larusso, college marketing coordinator, Rebecca Herman, senior press officer, and Nancy Hilton, senior press officer.
Mikaela Dilworth with Glenna Stewart, Press Officer at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Historian Robert Stevens, currently a professor at SVA and ICP. For twenty years Stevens was foreign photo editor at Time Magazine.
Regina Weinreich with a recently published book of Jack Kerouac. Weinrich, a Beat scholar, teaches at SVA. Sharon King Hoge on crutches. "I took a fall in Argentina ... not doing the Tango."
Alexey Brodovitch's book, Ballet. Brodovitch as art director of Harper's Bazaar hired Frank for the magazine but Frank, feeling it was too confining, resigned after a few months.
Charity Ball—New York City, 1954. Cafeteria—San Francisco, 1956.
Americans 4. Funeral-St. Helena, South Carolina.
Mississippi River, Baton Rouge, Louisiana, 1955. This preacher was famous for walking the length of the Insipid River. When Frank photographed him kneeling by the river's bank, praying to an unseen God for an unseen congregation, he created an image that speaks of the depth of the man's belief and the inexplicable nature of all faith.
The opening of Looking In: Robert Frank's "The Americans" at The Metropolitan Museum of Art.
Robert Frank with David Ross, former director of the Whitney Museum and San Francisco Museum of Art. Ross is currently Editor-at-large for FLYP magazine and on the faculty of SVA. "Besides the fact that I worship him, I did two exhibitions with Robert: one at Long Beach Museum with Phillip Brookman, and one at the Whitney." Joyce Johnson, who introduced Robert Frank to Jack Kerouac, was Kerouac's girlfriend for two years (1957-1958) just as On the Road became a best seller. She and Kerouac met on a blind date. Johnson later wrote about their romantic relationship in her memoir, Minor Characters.
Photographer Amy Arbus. Sofie Olsen, photographer Dan Budnik, and Met's photography curator, Jeff Rosenheim.
André Bernard, Vice President and Secretary of the John Guggenheim Memorial Foundation with Robert Frank.
Robert Frank with his cardiologist, Dr. Howard Weintraub. Philippe Laumont, a master printer, with photographer, Bruce Davidson.
Robert Frank with his wife, artist June Leaf. In 1975, en route to California, Robert Frank and June Leaf got married in the same court house where Frank had photographed a newly married couple on his Guggenheim trip. Peter MacGill, President of Pace/MacGill Gallery. The PaceMacGill Gallery represents the work of Robert Frank.
Jeff Rosenheim, Met's curator of Robert Frank exhibition, with his wife Kellye, Director of the Whiting Foundation. Bill Hunt whose new gallery, Hasted Hunt Kraeutler, is about to open in Chelsea. It will be showcasing the work of artist Edward Burtynsky.
Photographer Bryan Whitney with his wife Mecka Baumeister who works in Conservation department at the Met. Jerry Harris who is Robert Frank's guide when he visits Savannah. Harris came to New York especially for the opening.
Robert Frank at the reception in the Met's Grand Hall. In the background, his wife June Leaf. On the right is Sarah Greenough, senior curator of Photographs at the National Gallery of Art, Washington. Ms. Greenough, who originated this exhibition, wrote the introduction and opening essay for the show's magnificent catalogue.

Across the U.S.A. I have photographed with these ideas in mind: to portray Americans as they live at present. Their every day and their Sunday, their realism and dream. The look of cities, towns, and highways.
Text and photographs © by Jill Krementz: all rights reserved. All photographs by Robert Frank are © by Robert Frank.