Friday, September 11, 2009


Too much intellectual babbling has been made (and far too much ink spilt) about Robert Frank's "The Americans" as it makes its triumphal 50th Anniversary tour across the country this year. Too much talking, not enough looking: It's a book of photographs, people, not a story, treatise or social critique. The images are one particular person's impressions of a one-year car trip across the United States in 1955 -- nothing more, and definitely nothing less. They should be celebrated as that -- it is what it is -- and Frank lauded for gifting his unique vision to us.

An exception to the generally lame commentary on "The Americans" is Anthony Lane's piece in this week's New Yorker (here), published in anticipation of the exhibit's imminent arrival at the Met. Well-written and on the mark.

(Lane is the magazine's film critic, but also an amateur photographer (here is his earlier essay on the "cult" of Leica). Amateur in the original, Latinate sense of the word -- someone who does something for love rather than money. Many of the best writers on photography, I find, are photographers -- Robert Adams and Tod Papageorge are the best examples. On the other hand, one of my favorite photography critics -- A.D. Coleman -- is not a photographer at all).


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