hello guys. one of my favorite photographers, next to edward weston is his complete opposite as far as technique,but equal as far as living for their art, robert frank. i was wondering knowing that it is the eye and mind that take the photograph ,what equiepment was used by robert frank, in the 50's? most likely a leica but what type? how would the lenses he used compare to todays lenses?
I recall several photo magazine treatments of his book "The Americans" usually including photographs. These articles were timed to the reissuance of his book. I'm sure there's lots of stuff out there. I remember reading that he used Plus-x film (Tri-x was not yet available). he probably used a pre M Leica screwmount (the M3 not yet available). Some of his photographs seem to be taken with a 50 mm lens others look slightly wider. since the 28mm leica lens at the time was really slow (like f6.3 or 6.8 or something) I'd surmise he used a 35mm lens, as well, or exclusively. his pictures have very little shadow detail, so he must have been stingy with exposure and generous with development.
I'm sure you could look at the Leica Users Group (LUG), Leica Historical Society of America (LHSA) ((favorite leica joke "Join the LHSA, at least you'll never have to look for a doctor.")), etc., to find out what lenses were used in the early '50s.
I read that "the Americans" was very unappreciated when it was published. Popular Photography evidently published a scathing review. Frank's photographs more than withstand the test of time, though I admit that by the time I saw it, I was already exposed to the civil rights and Vietnam war photographs of the '60s, so it had less impact on me, taken out of its histoical context. All in all, a groundbreaking collection of photographs.
I understand that Frank moved more towards movies after "the Amercians".
"The Americans" was the second or third photography book I was ever exposed to, the first "Photography" by Upton and Upton, (a classic intro textbook in its 6th or 7th version now) and the other, "The Portfolios of Ansel Adams". It contains two of my all time favorite images, "Trolley-New Orleans" and "Restaurant-US 1 leaving Columbia, South Carolina" I believe American Photographer did a major article on the 25th aniversary of publication and I have the issue in a box somewhere. If I dig it up I'll post any interesting comments.
As far as the book is concerned I think the crticism was that it presented a pretty lonely and joyless view of America. There are not a whole lot of happy or smiling faces in its pages. When I first viewed it in 1982 I was unaware of such musings and just found many of the images resonated with me. Looking at the images recently I am struck by how many deal with old age and death.
Someday I would like to see the actual prints, but I do not know if they still exist together as a portfolio and what institution holds them. Perhaps on the 50th anniversary of publication (2009) there will be an exhibition.
i bought a copy of the americans i ny about 2years ago i was aware of the book for some time, it has become a source of inspiration i return to it time and time again, it never grows old i belive it is an example of an artist living for his art, i have read some of robert franks life in the book MOVING OUT, to me his strugle for his art is very inspiring especially in this days of 14 megapixel camera carying primadona photographers , shooting in locations most of could not possibly afford. robert frank created art in a elevator, a barbershop,a trolley and a bar, probably with a film camera these photodivas would consider obsolete. by the way the book i bought i ny i have didicated it to my 3yr old daughter knowing that it will hold up when she is 30yrs as it did40yrs ago.