Robert Frank is among the most important living photographers, but to say this is to understate the self-evident. At the same time, it seems ironic to articulate the importance of an artist who is so indifferent to success and so suspicious of whatever is well regarded.
Frank's work chronicles the marginal and the unofficial wherever it is found, from the nondescript corner of some ratty diner in South Carolina, to the smudged window that opens onto the dreariest rooftops in Butte, Montana, to the vacant stare of an elevator operator in Miami Beach.
Frank's seminal photo-book "The Americans" (1958), containing 83 black-and-white pictures, was one of the pivotal events of post-war photography. Its skepticism toward what was then the secular religion of wholesomeness and cheer, its resistance to charm, its out-of-focus foregrounds, its deranged angles and, above all, its strange new mood of cool melancholy, were met with shock at the time. But by the 1960s, "The Americans" made the transition from infamy to reverence. Suddenly, Frank's gloom and doom seemed prophetic. His belief that the best pictures were tentative, imperfect, and free of rhetoric became the basis of a new artistic stance.
First published in France in 1958 and in the United States in 1959, Robert Frank's The Americans is widely celebrated as the most important photography book since World War II.