The Americans

New York City

Reading Report on Susan Sontag's, America Seen Through Photographs Darkly?
Garry Winogrand, Central Park Zoo, New York City, 1967.































Bernard Waldman, mushroom cloud resulting from explosion of Little Boy over Nagasaki, August 6, 1945.
Nagasaki before and after Fat Man nuclear bombing, August 9, 1945.











August 6, 1945, Hiroshima, Japan
Nuclear blast shadow, Nagasaki, Japan, 1945











Victim of Hiroshima nuclear bombing, 1945.











First use of the Atomic Bomb at Hiroshima and Nagasaki
Founding of United Nations
U.S. introduces Marshall Plan to rebuild Europe, Asia and the Soviet Union
Edward Steichen becomes MOMA's second department of photography director
Soviet forces refuse Marshall Plan funds when they determine they cannot control the terms of the aid

General MacArthur & Emperor Hirohito, 1945.

1950 - 1953
Korean War - America combats the global expansion of Communism with inconclusive results
1950 - 1957
"McCarthy Era" - Senator Joseph McCarthy accuses hundreds of Americans of being Communists while the leader of the House Committee on Un-American Activities

Senator Joseph McCarthy, 1954.

J.D. Salinger's The Catcher in the Rye
William Golding's The Lord of the Flies
The Family of Man Exhibition











Cologne Cathedral after allied bombing
Alfred Eisenstaedt, V.J. Day, 1945.
The Kissing Sailor or the Selective
Blindness of Rape Culture











The Family of Man


The Family of Man

Wynn Bullock











To "explain man to man" and to celebrate "the essential oneness of mankind throughout the world" - Steichen





















Photographer Unknown, The Family of Man Exhibition, 1955.











Child in the Forest

Wynn Bullock, Child in the Forest, 1951.












People montage











Parents and children

Parents and children layout











Charles Fenno Jacobs











Dead Soldier

Raphel Platnick, Dead Soldier











Hygrogem Bomb

Photographer Unknown, Atomic Cloud During Baker Day Blast at Bikini, 1946.











A mushroom cloud follows the test detonation of an 11-megaton nuclear device over Bikini Atoll on March 26, 1954.


Who is the slayer?  Who the victim?  Speak.  - Sophocles











W. Eugene Smith

W. Eugene Smith

“If Mr. Steichen’s well-intentioned spell doesn’t work, it can only be because he has been so intent on the physical similarities that unite ‘The Family of Man’ that he has neglected to conjure the intangible beliefs and preferences that divide men into countries and parties and clans.  And he has utterly forgotten that a family quarrel can be as fierce as any other kind.” – Phoebe Lou Adams











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











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.











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.











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