The Americans

New York City

Reminder! Essay 3 due on Monday, November 27
Garry Winogrand, Central Park Zoo, New York City, 1967.








In the late 50s, marginalized groups
begin to gather in resistance

Civil Rights Movement of the 60s
Anti War movements
Feminist Movement of the 70s
Gay Rights Movement of the 80s
Ernest Withers, Workers Assembling for a Solidarity March, Memphis, Tennessee, 1968.











1960s artists begin to question
Societal norms
American consumerism
This questioning leads to a marked rejection of convention
  • Who determines how a photo should look?
  • What is photography?
  • What is appropriate photographic subject matter?
  • What is the role and responsibility of the photographer?
Robert Frank, Los Angeles, 1955 - 1956.











Pre-War Aesthetic:
Documentary style
The decisive moment
Genius, individual photographer
Ansel Adams, Yosemite Valley Clearing Winter Storm, 1942.











Post-War Aims:
  • Photographers wanted to go beyond
    commercial look of social realism
  • Exploration of the personal and the philosophical
  • Self-expression and experimentation
    rather than documentation
  • Elimination of the conventional
Aaron Siskind, Jerome, Arizona, 1949.











The Americans


Robert Frank, U.S. 285, New Mexico, 1955 - 1956.












American Graffitti, 1973











Robert Frank, Parade, Hoboken, New Jersey, 1955 - 1956.











Robert Frank, Trolley- New Orleans, 1955 - 1956.











Characteristics of images in The Americans:
  • Disregard for established photojournalistic standards
  • Private, unglamorous images
  • Use of blur, grain and movement
  • Sense of freedom
  • No sense of security
  • No decisive moment
  • No independent masterpieces (like The Steerage), the series functions best as a whole
Robert Frank, Jehova's Witness,
Los Angeles
, 1955 - 1956.











Covered Car
Car Accident

Robert Frank, Covered Car - Long Beach, CA,
1955 - 1956.

Robert Frank, Car Accident - U.S. 66, between Winslow and Flagstaff, Arizona, 1955 - 1956.











Structuralism = philosophical approach that analyzes society by looking at cultural phenomena, particularly signs, that have hidden underlying meanings that can be decoded

Robert Frank, Ranch Market - Hollywood, 1955 - 1956.











Robert Frank, Rodeo- New York City, 1955 - 1956.











Public Park Ann Arbor Michigan
Robert Frank, Chicago, 1955 - 1956.
Robert Frank, Public Park- Ann Arbour, Michigan, 1955 - 1956.











Robert Frank, Charleston, South Carolina, 1955 - 1956.











"Photography is a solitary journey. That is the only course open to the creative photographer. There is no compromise: Only a few photographers accept this fact. That is probably the reason why we have only a few really great photographers. In recent years camera journalism has become many people's definition of good photography. For me camera journalism means taste dictated by the magazines." - Robert Frank
Robert Frank, Indiannapolis, Indiana, 1955 - 1956.