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The Americansby Robert Frank
Synopses & Reviews
In 1958, the first edition of Robert Frank's The Americans was published in Paris. Les Americains contained Frank's 83 photographs in the same sequence as all subsequent editions, with the image on the right hand page, but juxtaposed with historical texts about American society and politics, gathered by Alain Bosquet. The following year, in the first American edition, the French texts were removed and an introduction by Jack Kerouac was added. Over the subsequent 50 years, The Americans has been republished in many editions, in numerous languages, with a variety of cover designs and even in a range of sizes. It is the most famous photography book ever published, and it changed the face of the medium forever.
Robert Frank discussed with his publisher, Gerhard Steidl, the idea of producing a new edition using modern scanning and the finest tritone printing. The starting point was to bring original prints from New York to Gottingen, Germany, where Steidl is based.
In July 2007, Frank visited Gottingen. A new format for the book was worked out and new typography selected. A new cover was designed and Frank chose the book cloth, foil for embossing and the endpaper. Most significantly, as he has done for every edition of The Americans, Frank changed the cropping of many of the photographs, usually including more information. Two images were changed completely from the original 1958 and 1959 editions.
"In this 50th anniversary reissue, celebrated photographer Frank maintains the format (left page: brief caption, right page: photo) and introduction (Jack Kerouac: 'with the agility, mystery, genius, sadness and strange secrecy of a shadow Frank photographed scenes that have never been seen before on film'), the images themselves have been re-scanned, re-cropped by Frank and, in two cases, changed. Frank's images, taken all across the country, leave the viewer with a solemn impression of American life. From funerals to drug store cafeterias to parks, Frank recorded every shade of everyday life he encountered: the lower and upper classes, the living and dead, the hopeful and destitute, all the while experimenting with angle, focus and grain to increase impact. Preceding an exhibition that will tour U.S. galleries in 2009, this volume will no doubt introduce new generations to Frank's inimitable record of daily life fifty years ago. Kerouac says, fittingly, that 'after seeing these pictures you end up finally not knowing any more whether a jukebox is sadder than a coffin'; those who don't comprehend Kerouac's comment have yet to experience this classic collection. 83 tri-tone plates." Publishers Weekly (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)
Originally published in 1958, "The Americans" was part of a series of books that presented foreign countries through words and pictures. Frank personally supervised this latest edition that features a new cover as well as digitally enhanced images.
Armed with a camera and a fresh cache of film and bankrolled by a Guggenheim Foundation grant, Robert Frank crisscrossed the United States during 1955 and 1956. The photographs he brought back form a portrait of the country at the time and hint at its future. He saw the hope of the future in the faces of a couple at city hall in Reno, Nevada, and the despair of the present in a grimy roofscape. He saw the roiling racial tension, glamour, and beauty, and, perhaps because Frank himself was on the road, he was particularly attuned to Americans' love for cars. Funeral-goers lean against a shiny sedan, lovers kiss on a beach blanket in front of their parked car, young boys perch in the back seat at a drive-in movie. A sports car under a drop cloth is framed by two California palm trees; on the next page, a blanket is draped over a car accident victim's body in Arizona.
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