Robert Frank was born in Zurich in 1924. He began his career in photography in the mid-1940s before emigrating to America in 1947. There his bold photographs brought him to the attention of the legendary art director of Harper’s Bazaar, Alexey Brodovich, and Frank was hired as a roving fashion photographer. The job allowed Frank to travel back and forth to Europe where he produced two significant bodies of work – one his Paris pictures and the other photographs of England and Wales. These pictures were an essential forerunner to Frank’s American work as well as significant works in their own right.
"My photographs are not planned or composed in advance, and I do not anticipate that the onlooker will share my viewpoint. However, I feel that if my photograph leaves an image on his mind, something has been accomplished."
- Robert Frank
As an immigrant, Frank was fascinated by America and after his first travels around the country he applied for a Guggenheim Fellowship which he was awarded in 1955. He then embarked on a two year trip across America during which he took over 28,000 photographs. Eighty-three of the images were subsequently published in the book "The Americans" - generally acknowledged to be one of the greatest photography books ever published.
What Frank brought to the medium was an improvisational quality coupled with a subjectively original but objective point of view. He saw the world in a way that was at odds with commonly perceived visual clichés of his time but which was certainly more truthful. While the darkness and idiosyncratic nature of much of his vision at first shocked many people – it became the template for much of what was to follow in photography.
By the 1960s Frank had largely turned his attention to film not returning to still photo-graphy until the 1970s – at which point his work became much more autobiographical, combining text, multiple frames, and deliberately scratchedimages. Today Frank lives and works quietly in New York and Nova Scotia while interest in his work flourishes. The most recent major show – "Looking in: Robert Frank’s The Americans” opened at the National Gallery in Washington D.C. in 2009 and continues to travel to major museums around the world. His last solo gallery show was at Pace MacGill in 2009.