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HomeContents > People > Photographers > Robert Frank

Other: Robert Louis Frank 
Dates:  1924, 9 November -
Born:  Switzerland, Zurich
Active:  US / Canada
American photographer and filmmaker.
For researchers one of the most important collections is the National Gallery of Art (Washington, D.C.) which has an archive of his negatives, contacts, workprints and fine prints. It also has a large resource of supporting bibliographical and research materials.

Preparing biographies

Biography provided by Focal Press 
The Americans (1958–1959), constructed from 800 rolls of 35mm film of Frank’s travels across the United States, became the seminal photographic publication for mid-twentieth century street photographers. Frank powered his book by arranging his images in sequences, which have completeness and make-up that no single image possesses. Part of the restless New York City Beat scene, the Swiss-born Jewish photographer had the astute ability of an outsider to critically examine booming post-WWII American culture and found a languor of alienation and loneliness. Open to possibilities, Frank was able to imagine photographs that nobody else had thought to make. Intuitively using a small Leica in available light situations as an extension of his body, he disregarded the photojournalistic standards of construction and content matter. Frank’s stealthful, disjointed form; his use of blur, grain, and movement; and his off-kilter compositions, became the emotional, unpicturesque, and gestural carrier of what would be the new 35 mm message: The freedom to discover new content and formal methods of making photographs. 
(Author: Robert Hirsch - Independent scholar and writer) 
Michael Peres (Editor-in-Chief), 2007, Focal Encyclopedia of Photography, 4th edition, (Focal Press) [ISBN-10: 0240807405, ISBN-13: 978-0240807409] 
(Used with permission) 

Further research

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References are available for subscribers.There is so much more to explore when you subscribe. 
Richard Avedon
Robert Frank, Photographer, Mabou Mines, Nova Scotia, 7-17-75 
1975, 17 July
Family history 
If you are related to this photographer and interested in tracking down your extended family we can place a note here for you to help. It is free and you would be amazed who gets in touch.
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Exhibitions on this website

ThumbnailRobert Frank: The Publications 
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Additions are most welcome.
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Visual indexes

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Visual indexes for this photographer are available for subscribers.There is so much more to explore when you subscribe. 

Internet biographies

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Wikipedia has a biography of this photographer.Show on this siteGo to website
Getty Research, Los Angeles, USA has an ULAN (Union List of Artists Names Online) entry for this photographer. This is useful for checking names and they frequently provide a brief biography. Go to website
Grove Art Online ( has a biography of this artist. 
[NOTE: This is a subscription service and you will need to pay an annual fee to access the content.]
Show on this siteGo to website
The Cleveland Museum of Art, USA has a biography on this photographer. [Scroll down the page on this website as the biography may not be immediately visible.]Show on this siteGo to website
The International Photographers Hall of Fame has provided a biography.Show on this siteGo to website

Internet resources

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National Gallery of Art (Washington D.C.) 
Has major collections of Harry Callahan, Walker Evans, Lee Friedlander, Robert Frank, Irving Penn and Alfred Stieglitz. There are a number of exhibitions on-line but to locate the holdings for an individual photographer you need to use the search options 

Printed biographies

The following books are useful starting points to obtain brief biographies but they are not substitutes for the monographs on individual photographers.

• Auer, Michele & Michel 1985 Encyclopedie Internationale Des Photographes de 1839 a Nos Jours / Photographers Encylopaedia International 1839 to the present (Hermance, Editions Camera Obscura) 2 volumes [A classic reference work for biographical information on photographers.] 
• Beaton, Cecil & Buckland, Gail 1975 The Magic Eye: The Genius of Photography from 1839 to the Present Day (Boston and Toronto: Little, Brown & Company) p.215 [Useful short biographies with personal asides and one or more example images.] 
• Capa, Cornell (ed.) 1984 The International Center of Photography: Encyclopedia of Photography (New York, Crown Publishers, Inc. - A Pound Press Book) p.210-211 
• Evans, Martin Marix (Executive ed.) 1995 Contemporary Photographers [Third Edition] (St. James Press - An International Thomson Publishing Company) [Expensive reference work but highly informative.] 
• International Center of Photography 1999 Reflections in a Glass Eye: Works from the International Center of Photography Collection (New York: A Bulfinch Press Book) p.215-216 [Includes a well written short biography on Robert Frank with example plate(s) earlier in book.] 
• Lenman, Robin (ed.) 2005 The Oxford Companion to the Photograph (Oxford: Oxford University Press)  [Includes a short biography on Robert Frank.] 
• Weaver, Mike (ed.) 1989 The Art of Photography 1839-1989 (New Haven and London: Yale University Press) p.457 [This exhibition catalogue is for the travelling exhibition that went to Houston, Canberra and London in 1989.] 
• Witkin, Lee D. and Barbara London 1979 The Photograph Collector’s Guide (London: Secker and Warburg) p.144 [Long out of print but an essential reference work - the good news is that a new edition is in preparation.] 

Useful printed stuff

If there is an analysis of a single photograph or a useful self portrait I will highlight it here.

• Gruber, Renate and L. Fritz Gruber 1982 The Imaginary Photo Museum (New York: Harmony Books) p.247-248 
• Newhall, Beaumont 1982 The History of Photography - Fifth Edition (London: Secker & Warburg) [One or more photographs by Robert Frank are included in this classic history.] 
• Sobieszek, Robert A. and Deborah Irmas 1994 the camera i: Photographic Self-Portraits (Los Angeles: LACMA - Los Angeles County Museum of Art) p.217, Plate 85 [When the Audrey and Sydney Irmas collection was donated to LACMA - Los Angeles County Museum of Art in 1992 the museum gained a remarkable collection of self portraits of notable photographers. If you need a portrait of Robert Frank this is a useful starting point.] 
• Szarkowski, John 1973 Looking at Photographs: 100 Pictures from the Collection of The Museum of Modern Art (New York: The Museum of Modern Art) p.176 [Analyzes a single photograph by Robert Frank.] 


Photographic collections are a useful means of examining large numbers of photographs by a single photographer on-line. 

In the 1990 survey of 535 American photographic collections Robert Frank was represented in 69 of the collections. Source: Andrew H. Eskind & Greg Drake (eds.) 1990 Index to American Photographic Collections [Second Enlarged Edition] (Boston, Massachusetts: G.K. Hall & Co.) 
Library of Congress, Washington, USA 
Approximate number of records: 2 
Note: A single record may contain more than one photograph.
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The wit and wisdom.

"Black and white are the colors of photography. To me they symbolize the alternatives of hope and despair to which mankind is forever subjected."
"I have been frequently accused of deliberately twisting subject matter to my point of view. Above all, I know that life for a photographer cannot be a matter of indifference. Opinion often consists of a kind of criticism. But criticism can come out of love. It is important to see what is invisible to others. Perhaps the look of hope or the look of sadness. Also, it is always the instantaneous reaction to oneself that produces a photograph."
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