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Robert Frank (American, b. 1924)


Medium gelatin silver print Measurements H: 11 x W: 14 in. (27.94 x 35.56 cm) Credit Leisser Art Fund Accession Number 84.26.3 Location Not on View


With financial support from a Guggenheim Fellowship, the Swiss-born Robert Frank crisscrossed America from 1955 to 1957 in a 1950 Ford Business Coupe. He wanted to observe and record "what one naturalized American finds to see in the United States that signifies the kind of civilization born here and spreading elsewhere." In the process, he made more than 20,000 images that portrayed diners with jukeboxes, fairgrounds with worn and tattered American flags, and other overlooked corners of American life. The book that resulted from this trip, The Americans, was originally published in France and later in the United States, where his gritty and off-kilter style was met with much criticism. Today, The Americans is considered a prescient view of our culture and is regarded by some as having changed the course of 20th- century photography. Frank captured this African American couple astride a motorcycle in Indianapolis in 1956, less than a year after Rosa Parks refused to give up her seat on a bus in Montgomery, Alabama. In it, we see a yearning for freedom, as symbolized by the powerful motorcycle, as well as a sense of pride that is manifested in the posture and expressions of the couple. Frank used a 35mm Leica for this project, developing film in motel rooms as he traveled. The processing was of little importance to him; it was the content of his unceremoniously printed images that Frank considered critical. —From gallery label for the exhibition Digital to Daguerreotype, by Linda Benedict-Jones, 2009