NEW YORK – Robert Frank, a giant of 20th-century photography whose seminal book “The Americans” captured singular, candid moments of the 1950s and helped free picture-taking from the boundaries of clean lighting and linear composition, has died. He was 94.
Frank died Monday in Inverness, on Cape Breton Island in Nova Scotia, according to his second wife, June Leaf. The couple divided their time between Nova Scotia and New York.
The Swiss-born Frank influenced countless photographers and was likened to Alexis de Tocqueville for so vividly capturing the United States through the eyes of a foreigner. Besides his still photography, Frank was a prolific filmmaker, creating more than 30 movies and videos, including a cult favorite about the Beats and a graphic, censored documentary of the Rolling Stones' 1972 tour.
But he was best known for “The Americans,” a montage that countered the 1950s myth of bland prosperity and opened vast new possibilities for photography, shifting the paradigm from the portrait to the snapshot. Frank's shots featured jukeboxes, luncheonettes, cigars, big cars and endless highways, with an American flag often in the picture.
“Robert Frank changed the way we see,” Mark Lubell, executive director of the International Center of Photography, told The Associated Press on Tuesday. “When 'The Americans' came out, America was on the rise. America had won the war. But he saw something different, things that were not as rosy a picture as Life magazine might have had it.”
The 83 black-and-white photographs were culled from more than 28,000 images Frank took from 1955 to 1957 during a cross-country trip.