Homework #7: Robert Frank’s America

Robert Frank, Drugstore, Detroit, 1955-56

Robert Frank, Drugstore, Detroit, 1955-56

For this homework assignment, please watch a short video on last year’s exhibition at Stanford University’s Cantor Center for Visual Arts. The exhibition highlighted Robert Frank’s seminal photography book The Americans (1958) and the photographs that didn’t make it into the book. The book contains only 83 photos but Robert Frank took many more. The video gives you a tour of the exhibition with the curator Peter Galassi, formerly of MoMA. What do you think of the themes addressed in Frank’s photographs, do you find them artistic? bleak? or political?

Take a short tour of the Cantor exhibition on Robert Frank here. 

To complete this homework assignment, note whether you Post or Comment. For Homework #7, Hearts and Clubs will submit a Post, and Diamonds and Spades will Comment (choose any of your classmates’ posts to comment on).

Please submit your posts by Thursday December 10th!.

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10 Responses to Homework #7: Robert Frank’s America

  1. Daniel says:

    I think the themes addressed in Robert Frank’s photographs are both artistic and political. His photos were artistic to me because he captured people go about there everyday lives and it showed us how america is viewed and how we viewed ourselves living in america during these times. Since the photos were after world war 2, america had a lot of national pride so many images are seen with an image of the american flag. He photos were also political and powerful. During the time of segregation and racism he was able to capture many images of people in the south and how their lives were being lived. Robert Frank couldn’t understand how people can see themselves different from someone else based on their skin color, and he tried to show how we are all equal.

    • Jamile Brito says:

      I agree with you. I believe that his photographs are both artistic and political. The fact that he tried to show others how people went about with their daily lives makes us realize how much effort he put into his work and portraying how people lived. I also think that when Frank realized how people were treated he probably thought that it was unfair because we are all equal. I guess people though that America was this great place where people has a blissful life and it wasn’t. In fact, people at this time were treated differently. Blacks were on one side and whites on the other. Even though blacks were not allow to sit next to the whites they were allow to serve them food, and so on. Though, America is portrayed as a place where people are living the dream we can see through Frank’s photographs that it isn’t how people portray it as. Due to racism people were not happy, especially those that were not living their American Dream.

  2. Bibi Ali says:

    I think the themes addressed in Robert Franks photographs were a combination of all three, artistic, bleak and political. First I think it was artistic because he took pictures based off of how and what he felt. There were many that had their own sense of being and style, like the ones that were partially blurry. Or maybe the ones that showed the presence of a person’s shadow. But they each had their own artistic value to them. They were bleak just because they were regular everyday pictures. It didn’t really show much. There wasn’t anything particularly exciting about them and to make matters further more complicated the pictures turned out black and white. Lastly, I think that the pictures were political because he took pictures of a time that he had a hard time understanding himself. He took pictures during the time of segregation. Although he took raw pictures of everyone on a daily basis, it showed the truth to controversies, that he or others lacked the knowledge about.

    • Irina says:

      I agree with you regarding the idea that Frank’s images are bleak, artistic and political at the same time. The images that were captured as a result of perfect timing admire with their candid character that also carry some massage behind.
      I really like that he travels to different states and tries to tell the story of people having different routines and lives, rather than just focusing on one state or location. It’s interesting to observe how people in South Carolina or New Orleans are struggling with racial segregation, while there are people attending parade in New Jersey or going to film premiere in Hollywood.
      Another thing that I find fascinating regarding Frank’s photography, is that came from other country and took all these pictures with the point of view of a foreigner trying to get to know and understand America and the Americans living their.

  3. Soledad says:

    I think the themes addressed in Robert Frank’s photographs are both political and artistic. Some of his photographs were taken when racism was going on something that in those days it was obvious since people were separated because of their skin color. Which Frank liked to capture to show his audience what this people would go through. But he did not only focus on those political issues but on people who were just living their day by day . which I find artistic because anyone can snap a picture, but his pictures showed more than normal people. He captured how Americans lived their day by day, even if they were from another country or had a different culture. That at the end we were all the same trying to survive in this world regardless of skin color, political view and physical characteristics and that is what makes us all the same.

    • Jose N says:

      I completely agree with Soledad because after the war every one thought that America was great country. That everyone thought that the American people where happy, that anyone can do the American Dream. Frank photo show the opposite of that. He show how United stated of America real is. Frank show that United States had racism to the level that black peoples could not eat next to a white person but, they could served them food and taker of there children. He also show that no everyone had there own American Dream, it was the opposite, a lot of people were not happy.

  4. Diteyn says:

    I think the reason why Frank took these pictures was to show what America was REALLY like. Since he was a foreigner (Switzerland) The stories of America must have been so grand, most other foreigners might have seen Americans as Godlike beings filled with life, money and all other things people desire. When he took the photos however, it showed America in it’s truest form. America is not filled with kings and queens sashaying around in fancy clothing and driving expensive cars. America is filled with normal people. It’s filled with children, its filled with elderly just trying to get by. I think the gallery opened up a lot of eyes not only in foreign places, but also locally. Someone from another state can see what it looks like somewhere else in the country.

  5. Nicole says:

    I think the theme of Robert Franks’ photographs are both artistic and political. They were artistic in the way that they looked. They are physically pleasing to look at; the composition, the way the black and white colors contrast with each other. He photographed ordinary people doing normal everyday things. When Frank came to the United States he had an idea of what America would be like. Back home he was never exposed to the kind of racism that was happening in the South. So when he went down there he was not expecting. In learning that the United States was not as he though it was going to see he wanted to show everyone else what the South was really like and how people who were different were actually being treated.
    His political photos spread his confusion of why people were being treated like this in America. A lot of his photo’s showed the american flag, in big scale and small scale, maybe because he though of America as one thing but it really wasn’t what he was expecting it to be.

    • Jan Santos says:

      I agree, the theme of Robert Frank’s photograph is artistic and political. The way he photograph the people, from perspective views to, lighting and storytelling. It’s artistic because of the angle he had taken the photos,. The right timing to capture the picture he had thought about. His photographs was to capture the imagery of America, it was different than what he believed it was. He had captured many moments, how Americans are, the way people express themselves as an individual. An example is how black and white people are with each other. As they claim, “He just couldn’t understand, A white southern women would intrust the care of a black women but wouldn’t sit next to them at the lunch counter”. It has also shown a political theme in Robert Frank’s photographs. Many of his pictures has shown the American flag in the background. He wanted to show what America is really about, how different it is from what many would believe it should be. They would believe America was a rich and amazing. Until he had came into America, and took photos of the everyday life in America. It was as if, he was connecting the dots, to create one big picture, or like puzzle pieces to create the image of America as a whole.

  6. Ryan Wong says:

    It think Robert Frank’s photos were very artistic and political. Although many photographers hated him because of his “lack” of skill i believe the opposite. The goal of a photographer is to portray something or get a message out. For example Walker evans goal was to pass the new deal during the great depression. Frank’s goal was to portray how it was to live in America and he did a great job on this. His photos captured the segregation that this great country once had. On the cover of “The Americans” you can see the clear segregation in the photo, whites in the front and blacks in the back. This clearly shows the objective of Robert Frank, he showed the world what America really was.

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