The New Yorker Takes Photojournalism Back to The ’50s

In 1955, Robert Frank, a photographer and documentary filmmaker,  traveled across America and took 28,000 photographs of the post-war society. Out of those 28,000 photographs only 83 were published in his book, The Americans. In 1958, his book was published in France and then a year later in America. His photographs focused on the tensions within race, class standing, and wealth in the American culture.

On the 50th anniversary of The Americans being published, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the National Gallery of Art and the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art displayed a celebratory exhibit.

Also in 2009, Anthony Lane of The New Yorker, published a slideshow on photos from Frank’s most notable work. The first photo on the slideshow ironically was the opening photo in The Americans. The photo is of two women standing from inside a building watching a parade in Hoboken, New Jersey as the American flag waves across their window.

13_Robert Frank_Charleston South Carolina_1955Of the five photos in the gallery, one of my favorite is of a black nanny holding a white baby. Lane critiqued the photo as, “an unflinching image of a black nanny in Charleston, South Carolina, her features as starched and dignified as her summer dress, cradling a plump white baby who stares in another direction altogether, as if toward a fate very different from hers.” The layout of a photo is important to the message it is trying to give. This photo has a good rule of thirds while also adding a sense of tension/friction as the child looks in one way and the nanny in another.

The last photo caught my attention the most. The photo is a close up of a Hollywood starlet. While another photographer would have focused on her 66_Robert Frank_Movie Premiere Hollywood_1955and blurred the background, Frank focused on the fans and blurred the starlet. Lane described the starlet as, “no more than a shimmering blur.” This photo touches upon the different status that Hollywood starlets are held up to. It seems as though much hasn’t changed in over 50 years.


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