First published in France in 1958, then in the United States in 1959, Robert Frank’s The Americans changed the course of twentieth-century photography. In eighty-three photographs, Frank looked beneath the surface of American life to reveal a people plagued by racism, ill-served by their politicians, and rendered numb by a rapidly expanding culture of consumption. Yet he also found novel areas of beauty in simple, overlooked corners of American life. And it was not just his subject matter - cars, jukeboxes, and even the road itself - that redefined the icons of America; it was also his seemingly intuitive, immediate, off-kilter style, as well as his method of brilliantly linking his photographs together thematically, conceptually, formally, and linguistically, that made The Americans so innovative. More of an ode or a poem than a literal document, the book is as powerful and provocative today as it was fifty years ago.
Published to accompany a major exhibition at the National Gallery of Art, the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, and the Metropolitan Museum of Art, Looking In: Robert Frank's “The Americans” celebrates the fiftieth anniversary of this prescient book. Drawing on newly examined archival sources, it provides a fascinating in-depth examination of the making of the photographs and the book’s construction, using vintage contact sheets, work prints, and letters that literally chart Frank's journey around the country on a Guggenheim grant in 1955 –1956. Curator and editor Sarah Greenough and her colleagues also explore the roots of The Americans in Frank's earlier books, which are abundantly illustrated here, and in books by photographers Walker Evans, Bill Brandt, and others. The eighty-three original photographs from The Americans are presented in sequence in as near vintage prints as possible. The catalogue concludes with an examination of Frank's later reinterpretations and deconstructions of The Americans, bringing full circle the history of this resounding entry in the annals of photography.
Published alongside the softcover edition, Looking In: Robert Frank's “The Americans” - Expanded Edition includes a wealth of additional materials, essential information for all interested in twentieth-century photography. It contains all of the essays and photographs in the softcover, plus all of Frank’s vintage contact sheets related to The Americans, a section that re-creates his preliminary sequence and presents variant croppings of the first and subsequent editions of the book, and a map and chronology, along with letters and manuscript materials by Frank, Walker Evans, and Jack Kerouac related to Frank’s Guggenheim fellowship, his travels around the United States in 1955 – 1956, and his construction of the book. This groundbreaking 528-page catalogue is certain to be the definitive source of information on The Americans for years to come.