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The Americans Hardcover – May 30, 2008
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Robert Frank's Americans reappear 40 years after they were initially published in this exquisite volume by Scalo. Each photograph (there are more than 80 of them) stands alone on a page, while the caption information is included at the back of the book, allowing viewers an unfettered look at the images. Jack Kerouac's original introduction, commissioned when the photographer showed the writer his work while sitting on a sidewalk one night outside of a party, provides the only accompanying text. Kerouac's words add narrative dimension to Frank's imagery while in turn the photographs themselves perfectly illustrate the writer's own work. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
From Publishers Weekly
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In the Scalo version, the place-name captions have been removed from the pages opposite the photographs and collected in the back of the book. Forget any ideas you might have of Frank's book being a travelogue. In place of the itinerary, the Scalo edition finally establishes the ORDER of the book's photographs as the crucial ingredient in Frank's complex vision of America. The 83-photograph sequence cuts between elliptical narrative of the open road and comparative sociology of dead-end lives as Frank turns free association into inescapable logic and then back again. The result is the most masterful combination of photographs in book form.
The subjects of Frank's photographs roam this fractured typology like prophets locked in an unstable time loop. Geography no longer takes center stage as the formative element of their photographic selves. In some small but significant way, the americans in the Scalo edition reclaim the intentionality of their sadness, anger, and alienation. The bitter and often unwilling nature of their engagements with Frank take center stage, each as profound an act of refusal as Frank's own denunciation of the pasteboard optimism of '50s America.
The book is a little smaller than the Delpine, but that's the only real negative (if it is one) I can think of. The main thing to me is that the photos themselves are how Frank intended them to look. Gone are the overly-lightened faces that plague the Delpine book. This is a pet peeve of mine that kills many photos in this Photoshop age. This is very obvious in the New Orleans trolley photo. In the Delpine work, the faces of the white passengers are totally washed out, and the black faces are awkwardly lightened (someone apparently thought they were helping Frank's work). That's all corrected here. In this Steidl edition things are shown as they were intended. One can even see details in the face of the man at far left, even though it is partially obscured by a window reflection.
Also, on several photos more of the frame is visible. This was most noticeable to me in the Butte, Montana photo of the woman looking out the car window, with several children in the back seat. A good portion of the left side of the photo is now visible, along with more shown on the top and bottom. The new crop just seems more "right." Not too mention that the face of the child in the middle of the photo is too light in the older edition.
Simply put, comparing the two editions is an eye opener. I first saw these photos years ago in a much earlier edition (I believe it was the 1969 Aperture work) and I still marvel at the depth of the images in that printing.Read more ›
How did he do this? He basically introduced the "icongraphic photograph" to the world. Take for example, his picture in the Americans of a political rally for Ike. It is of a man standing against a blank wall, playing the tuba. But the tuba's opening obscures his face, all you see is the big blank dark opening of the the tuba where his eyes and mouth are suppossed to be. And then right behind the tuba, almost coming out of it, a flag, an American flag, though shapeless, and formless and it snakes out of the picture. On the man's lapel is a big "For Ike" button. At the time, this was a radical photograph and statement about politics and the role of the individual in political life; remember this was 1957.
There are many many many other photographs like this throughout the Americans: St. Peter taking on City Hall. The American flag covering the faces of the people at a parade. The jukebox everywhere. The signs screaming "No Negroes Allowed" while on the next page is a photograph of an older black women holding in her arms, caring for, a young white baby. Frank clearly asking, screaming, why is it okay for them to care your for babies but not okay for them to use the same toilet as you?
It is a subtle but very powerful book. And once you see it, once you get it, you can never see a photograph the same way again.
He has influenced every photographer who has come after him.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
This is the book that established Robert Frank's reputation. I think everyone interested in photography should have a copy.Published 12 days ago by Jerome H. Gitomer
This version is pretty small and the print quality seems pretty low, but it's still a great book. The pictures are very matte and you can feel the texture of the ink on the pages.Published 27 days ago by Alicia M. Saenz
Robert Frank leans on a parking meter. The documentary „Leaving Home, Coming Home“ has just covered the loss of his two children. Read morePublished 2 months ago by Serge Zehnder