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Frank, Robert

Frank, Robert, 1924–2019, Swiss-American photographer and filmmaker, b. Zürich. He immigrated to the United States in 1947 and became a citizen in 1963. One of the 20th century's most influential photographers, Frank pioneered the snapshot aesthetic, in which the documentary image is rendered bluntly yet expressively, raw and without conscious artistry. His best-known work is The Americans (1959), a composite portrait of U.S. culture as seen by a relative newcomer. In its black-and-white photographs, informal pictures without text of all manner of Americans, often anxious or isolated, in everyday situations, are telling glimpses of postwar America and its clutter and trivia. Considered gross, shocking, degrading, and even un-American when first published, they soon became an intrinsic part of American iconography, changing the nature of documentary photography and also influencing artists in other media. Frank's avant-garde films, also documentary in style, include Pull My Daisy (1959–60, with Alfred Leslie), OK, End Here (1963), and Me and My Brother (1965–68).

See Lines of My Hand (rev. ed. 1989) and other books of his photographs; biography by RJ Smith (2017); S. Greenough, ed., Looking In: Robert Frank's The Americans (museum catalog, 2009); documentaries dir. by G. Fox (2005) and L. Israel (2016).

The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.

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