Written by Hannah Abel-Hirsch and Marigold Warner
Robert Frank’s The Americans greatly influenced the course of 20th and 21st-century photography. His contemporaries, and those who followed, reflect on the enduring significance of his work
Robert Frank, the influential photographer known for capturing the hardships of everyday life, died on Monday, aged 94, in Nova Scotia, Canada. He is perhaps best known for his seminal photobook The Americans, which left an indelible mark on the generations of photographers who followed. The project was unique in its refusal to romanticise. It captured the poverty and suffering of post-war America with unprecedented candidness, revealing a country ravaged by poverty, racism and the rise of consumerist culture.
Frank was born in Switzerland on 09 November 1924 and immigrated to New York aged 23. In 1955, he was awarded a Guggenheim fellowship and embarked on several road trips across the US, occasionally accompanied by his first wife, the visual artist Mary Frank, and their two children, Pablo and Andrea. Frank’s 10,000-mile road trip spanned 26 states. He shot a total of 767 rolls of film; over the course of a year, 27,000 images would be annotated, tacked to walls, ripped apart, grouped together, and eventually sequenced into a series of 83 photographs, which formed The Americans.