This book portrays a personal account of America by Robert Frank through a catalogue of 83 black & white photographs, taken across 48 states of America, with Franks’ handheld 35mm Leica Camera. Robert Frank, born in Switzerland, moved to the US in 1947 and became a photojournalist. His main Influences where Walker Evans and Bill Brandt. Robert Frank is indebted to Walker Evans for making this iconic book. Not only did Frank use Evans book "American Photographs" as precedent but also it was Evans that pushed him forward to achieve the Guggenheim Fellowship of Photography. This Fellowship enabled Frank to take a road trip with his wife and child to document the everyday life of America over a two year period.
These black and white images represent Franks’ personal vision of America. One can feel the emotion that has gone into each snap Frank has taken, whether it is witnessed through a stare, a glance, a pursed lip or a hand gesture. He finds a way of always ‘showing what is invisible to others’.
The book is laid out with the photographs on the right hand page, with the use of the white space on the left page, leaving an empty message to let the viewer depict their own thought from the image. The Images are set in certain sequence, each image relating in somewhat to the next. One has to read into the image to understand what is being captured. This is achieved through the blurring of the photograph and leaving the subject clear, the use of available light and cropping of a frame, and sometimes a message in the background. The image of the lady at the movie premier, shows the lady in the foreground slightly out of focus. It is the women in the background that are the subject with the sign saying ‘squires’ behind them.
This romantic work of art was caught through Franks’ quick responsive reaction to snap mysterious, strange and sad portraits of America, giving a darker meaning to the ‘American Dream’.
Sensing the divide in the cultures, Frank captures this by using symbolism. A bus is representative of a Prison, a car is representative of a Casket, and the American flag as a Shroud.
It is in the later book ‘Looking In’ that gives us a glimpse of the negatives taken on this trip that tells us more of the story behind the one frame that Frank chooses carefully for us to see.