Robert Frank and 'The Americans'

Discussion in 'Leica and Rangefinders' started by ruben_osuna_guerrero, Feb 5, 2005.

  1. Robert Frank used Leicas. I bought 'The Americans', but I cannot see what camera he
    employed for these pictures?
    Anyone knows it?
     
  2. There's an Allen Ginsberg interview online where he mentions that Frank had a Leica
    IIIC. What lens, no clue.
     
  3. I beleive it was the 50mm. The Summitar is likely. He really travelled light! A side article, some years ago, he shot one of the "Conventions" in the States. There was a photo of Frank with his 2 Leica-M's sitting on an oil drum, pointed straight up at the noon sun! It was in "Camera-35".
    The book is magic. I have an original.
    Robert Frank's images greatly disturbed actual Americans(at the time)
    and he was told he would not work in the States again!
    Well we in Canada are more than happy to say he is ours!
     
  4. When I had a chance to meet him he said it was a III model, but he wasn't sure which model. As for lenses He told me he used a 50 and a 90. In a Ginsberg essay I read he said he had a Zeiss Sonnar. I would guess he used an elmar as his 90.
     
  5. Ruben -

    I don't have the book here (had the library's copy recently), but take a look at the Forward to the book written by Jack Kerouac.

    First, it's absolutely worth reading whether I'm right or wrong about the Leica reference. Second, if I am right, there's a mention of the Leica in there.

    Quite a book, isn't it?
     
  6. Actually, the last I heard was that Frank and his wife keep a home in New York and one in Nova Scotia. And he continued to work in the United States making films many years after "The Americans". He has also made several other fine photography books since the publication of "The Americans".

    Frank is one of my photo-heros.
     
  7. Quite a book, isn't it?
    Yes it is, one of my favorites. And it's an excellent example demonstrating that lenses with somewhat poor sharpness, contrast, flare, etc do not in the slightest detract from the power of his images.
     
  8. <<< ... And it's an excellent example demonstrating that lenses with somewhat poor sharpness, contrast, flare, etc do not in the slightest detract from the power of his images. >>>>

    Certainly true, Brad. The book's not about gear. Having had the book here recently, I clicked on this thread not knowing a camera question was lurking.

    I think I've checked it out of our local library three separate times -- and that doesn't count my maxing out on the renewals.

    Given what he was doing, I think it was important for Frank to have had a small camera for a significant number of the shots. As to which small camera, well, take your pick.
     
  9. It's not as accessible as many books upon first look but it really grows on you, at least it did me. It's important to remember when these images were taken and what the social climate was like. Sentimentalists might want to leave this one on the coffee table.
     
  10. There is an excellent exhibition devoted to Frank's work that
    recently appeared at the London Tate Modern. It was amazing
    seeing all those prints first hand - as well as noting how many
    were 'keepers' from his contact sheets.<p>
    One of his photos showed, I think, diners in a café, but the
    window reflection showed Frank and camera quite clearly. I
    didn't really look at what he was using - I remember he
    composed using an external v/f, and I believe he had a broad
    grin on his face as he was taking the photo...
     
  11. "Quite a book, isn't it?"

    "It's not as accessible as many books upon first look but it really grows on you, at least it
    did me."

    Well, when I first saw the book I was shocked. The pictures were "strange", ?brutal? and
    "coarse" for me. Cartier-Bresson search for a "decisive instant" and Frank makes decisive
    the vulgar instants by freezing them with the camera. Salgado, for instance, shot a crude
    reality, but the pictures are beautiful. He can shot a child dying, and the picture is
    beautiful. I would say ?perversely? beautiful. However, Frank doesn?t provide us ?beauty?.
    He doesn?t provide us ?extraordinary moments? either. I cannot define what is in their
    pictures.

    We have seen many horrors in the XX century. The cinema and the TV show the depressing
    side of the life continuously. Even then, ?The Americans? has an uneasy effect in the ?light?
    reader of his pictures. I only can imagine the magnitude of that effect for the people of the
    ?happy America? of the 50s.

    I am yet assimilating the book.
     
  12. <4020.net>
    Don't forget he also used a Rolleiflex TLR for many of his shots. It isn't just Leica wall-to- wall :?)
     
  13. I went ot MoMA this afternoon and had my first chance to see the prints of "The Americans". Very impressed. (Although I have "read" the book many times.)

    In this first installment of Photography show at MoMA, three photographers are emphasized: Atget, Frank and Sherman. They represent three different eras of photography. To be honest, I am still at "Frank stage". I like the honest and beautiful view of the world by Atget and Frank, but still have trouble to appreciate the "deeper reality" of staged cinametic self-portrait of Sherman. Perhaps I am not "modern" enough ;-)
     
  14. "There is an excellent exhibition devoted to Frank's work that recently appeared at the London Tate Modern. It was amazing seeing all those prints first hand - as well as noting how many were 'keepers' from his contact sheets."

    Although this was an excellent show it was very misleading with regard to contact sheets. In most cases these were not the original sheets but 'constructed sheets' from individual film strips. This is clear if you checked the frame numbers. Some of these sheets had Frank jumping around the states on the same roll of film. Tate Modern should have been much clearer about this rather than just describe them as contacts which gave the impression that each represented one roll of film.

    One is though able to tell even from the strips that Frank was certainly not one for over shooting on a subject. One or two frames in most cases and he knows he has it in the bag and moves on. Even more amasing then that he was supposed to have shot 28,000 frames in 3 years.

    Lots of excellent images from the Americans project that he and Robert Delpire edited out from the final cut were on show, many I think for the first time, so in that sense there are plenty of keepers.

    He is certainly a photography giant. I did see him at the opening but didn't get a chance to speak to him unfortunately.

    There was also an interesting 'South Bank Show' documentary on him on UK TV to coinside with the Tate Modern Show.

    Jim
     
  15. the book that goes along with the Tate exhibition of Frank's work, "Storylines" is excellent....just recently got it....the contact prints of strips of negatives are indeed nice to see. Albiet, I thought it obvious that they weren't the same roll.......anyhow, the sequencing of "how" he shot was indeed enlightening. Always did like seeing contact sheets of notable photographers for that aspect.

    The Americans....what can be said......is just such a classic (if ever there were "classics" in photography books, Americans is definitely one of them)
     
  16. "Take a look at the Forward to the book written by Jack Kerouac.

    If I am right, there's a mention of the Leica in there."

    I cannot see any reference to Leica cameras in Kerouac's Forward to the book.
     
  17. I cannot see any reference to Leica cameras in Kerouac's Forward to the book.
    It is not in my book either. I own the 1995 issued third edition, but I can't imagine there are two different forwards.
     
  18. My Second Edition has the Kerouac introduction and he only comments: " Robert Frank, Swiss, unobtrusive, nice with that LITTLE CAMERA that he raises and snaps with one hand a sad poem right out of America onto film..."

    The Original 1958 Les Americains published by Robert Delpire in Paris has a different cover and has accompanying texts gathered by Alain Bosquet placing it more in a (Anti-American?)socio-documentary context (which is perhaps why it did not go down too well) rather than the Kerouac text. Still no mention of the Leica model used as far as I remember.

    I think its important not to ignore Delpire's contribution to this great book.
     
  19. Evidently, I was mistaken.

    The forward contains the mention of "that little camera" and very likely I read/heard elsewhere that the little camera was a Leica. So Kerouac perhaps "refers to" it, but not by name.

    Quite a book, isn't it? :)
     
  20. If you compare Frankᄡs photos to Cartier-Bresson, in terms of visual effects and angles, you will realized that while CB used mostly the 50mm , Frank did whit the 35.
    I have found that almost the entire "The Americans" was shoot with a 35mm.
     

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