- 12.09.2019 19:00
Robert Frank traveled thousands of kilometers between America’s West and East Coasts, taking almost 30,000 photographs and making 500 films of people on society’s fringes. With his selection of just 83 black-and-white images for The Americans, he became a part of photographic history. When the book was published in Paris in 1959 (it came out one year later in English and German), Frank had already worked as a photographer for over a decade. However, only a few of his early works have ever been published or are known. He worked in a number of photo studios in Switzerland before emigrating to the US in 1947. There, he took photographs for Harper’s Bazaar under the art direction of Alexey Brodovitch, who had a major influence on him. Alongside commercial commisions for magazines including Life, McCall’s, Look, Charm, Vogue and Fortune, Frank began his quest for an individual visual language, which he tested out during his first journeys through Peru and Bolivia (1948) as well as Europe (1949–1953). Unusual camera settings, cropped figures, and motion blurring began to characterize his photographic style, which went on to have a lasting efect on postwar photography. Moreover, the time Frank spent in London (1951–52) and Wales (1953) heightened his awareness of class and race issues, which later influenced his distinctive style and choice of subject.
The exhibition Robert Frank . Unseen at C/O Berlin presents selected early works, including negatives, contact sheets, and vintage material as well as still-unpublished and unknown photographs taken during the photographer’s time in Switzerland and on his travels in Europe. The show presents the narrative power of a visual language that developed early in the artist’s career, though it only received international recognition in his later years.
Robert Frank (b. 1924 in Zürich) is among the most significant and influential visual artists of our time. After training as a photographer in a number of Swiss photo studios, Frank emigrated to New York in 1947. In 1950, he was invited by Edward Steichen to take part in the group exhibition Photographs by 51 American Photographers at the Museum of Modern Art, New York. In the same year, he became the first European to receive a grant from the renowned Guggenheim Foundation, to put together a comprehensive photographic report on the US. This resulted in the photobook The Americans (1959), which received a very critical reception at the time of its publication but is now an icon in the photobook genre. The comprehensive body of films Frank has produced since the late 1950s and was shown at C/O Berlin in 2009. His works have been exhibited worldwide, most recently at the photography festival Les Rencontres d’Arles (2018), Albertina, Vienna (2018), Art Institute of Chicago (2017), Museum Folkwang, Essen (2014) and Tate Modern, London (2004). Frank lives in New York and in Nova Scotia, Canada.