Robert Frank: Books and Films, 1947-2016

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Robert Frank Tunnel
Robert Frank Tunnel (video still), color and black & white, 4 minutes, 2005 © Robert Frank
Robert Frank and Gerhard Steidl
Robert Frank and Gerhard Steidl © John McCarthy 2014
Robert Frank: Books and Films

In 1958, the legendary photographer Robert Frank published The Americans, which according to critic Sean O'Hagan, 'changed the nature of photography' and 'remains perhaps the most influential photography book of the 20th century'. Having emigrated to the United States from his native Switzerland, Frank brought an outsider’s perspective to his chronicle of the American underbelly, endowing The Americans with a gritty realism that was a far cry from the idyllic Americana advertised in magazines like Life and Time.

In November, 'Robert Frank: Books and Films, 1947-2016', a travelling exhibition conceived by Frank and Gerhard Steidl, the founder of the eponymous publishing house, will head to Tokyo for its tenth stop. While showcasing Frank’s images, photo books and long-neglected films spanning his entire career, the exhibition will also shed light on Steidl’s book-making practice, with rarely seen correspondences and samples revealing how the two masters welded their respective crafts together.

The exhibition’s curatorial approach reflects Frank’s anti-establishment ethos and espouses the photographer’s characteristic ‘cheap, quick and dirty’ aesthetic. Since most of Frank’s prints are in museum collections prohibiting overseas loans, the bolshie duo came up with the idea of printing the photographs on newspaper sheets and displaying them in frames made by students at the Tokyo University of Arts. At the end of the exhibition, the works will be destroyed during a performance piece that's sure to look like a calloused middle finger extended towards the art market.


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