Practice: Photography, Video, and Film
Date of Lecture: 1994-02-23
Born in Zurich in 1924, Robert Frank immigrated to New York City in 1947. On the strength of two Guggenheim Fellowships, received in 1955 and 1956, Frank traveled around the United States, making thousands of images from which came the seminal book, The Americans, published in France by Robert Delpire in 1958 and in America, with an introduction by Jack Kerouac the following year. Frank’s dark and grainy images of cars, flags and jukeboxes, were criticized at the time, but ultimately established Frank as one of the most important, and most influential, photographers of the 20th century.
In 1959, Frank swore off photography and made the film Pull My Daisy with Alfred Leslie. It featured an improvised narration by Jack Kerouac and it too became a classic of the American Beat Generation. After a series of other films, including The Sin of Jesus (1960), Me and My Brother (1965-68) and Conversations in Vermont (1969), Frank left New York City for Mabou, Nova Scotia with his second wife, sculptor June Leaf. Frank began to make photographs again, often employing black and while Polaroid film into which he would scratch and then print in combination with other images. In 1972, Frank published The Lines of My Hand and made the now infamous Rolling Stones documentary Cocksucker Blues which was promptly banned upon its release. In the 1980s, Frank began to explore video, making Home Improvements (1985) and more recently The Present (1996).
In 1994, Frank was the subject of a career retrospective entitled Moving Out, organized by the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C. In 1997, Frank was the recipient of the Hasselblad Foundation award. The book Flamingo was published to mark the occasion. The Museum Folkwang in Essen, Germany organized the 2001 exhibition HOLD STILL – keep going which focused primarily on the relationship between Frank’s photographs and films, and which traveled to the Canadian Museum of Contemporary Photography in Ottawa.
Robert Frank continues to make photographs and videos, splitting his time between New York and Nova Scotia.
Robert Frank also lectured on November 11, 1975.