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Robert Frank

(1924 - )

Robert Frank is a Jewish (Swiss-born) American photographer.

He was born on November 9, 1924 in Zurich, Switzerland. Frank and his family remained safe in Switzerland during World War II in spite of the close and real threat of Nazi persecution. In 1946, he created his first hand-made book of photographs, titled 40 Fotos. In 1947, Frank immigrated to the United States and obtained a job in New York City as a fashion photographer for Harper’s Bazaar. Frank was chosen to participate at the Museum of Modern Art, in an exhibit show, 51 American Photographers. Dissatisfied by America’s obsession with money and its often fast pace, he continued to travel much, moving his family briefly to Paris. When Frank returned to the United States in 1953, he began to work as a freelance photojournalist for magazines including McCall’s, Vogue, and Fortune.

In 1955, Frank was was awarded a grant from the John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation to document American society. In 1958, Frank released his most famous work, the photographic book, The Americans. This collection of pictures reflected on American society post-World War II. Frank found interest in documenting the stark contrast between the optimism of the 1950s and the bitter realities of class and racial differences. The Americans, first received much criticism on account of its divergence from contemporary photography. Nevertheless, in 1962, his work was presented at MOMA in New York City.

By the end of the 1950s, Frank began to veer away from photography to concentrate on film making, including the critically acclaimed film, Pull My Daisy (1959). Other films by Frank include, Cocksucker Blues, Keep Busy and Candy Mountain.

During the 1970s, Frank returned his attention to still images and photography, publishing his second book, Lines of My Hand, in 1972. In 1996, Frank was awarded the prestigious Hasselblad Award for photography.

Sources: “Robert Frank (1924 - ).” American Jewish Historical Society, American Jewish Desk Reference, (NY: Random House, 1999) pg. 311, Wikipedia