Synopses & Reviews
Walker Evans said in his 1958 introduction to Robert Frankand#8217;s The Americans, and#147;For the thousandth time, it must be said that pictures speak for themselves, wordlessly, visually, or they fail.and#8221; The imagesand#160;revolutionized postwar American photography. With their candid images of men and women from all classes and walks of life, the photographs presented a very different story than that portrayed by the wholesome caricature of midcentury prosperity pervading American photography at the time. Although initially dismissed by his peers for his pioneering work, Frank was ultimately credited with changing the course of the art form, and his photography holds a secure status in the history of twentieth-century art. And he did all this without words. It seems appropriate then and#150; and not a little overdue and#150; that Jonathan Day has created a book that expounds, explores, and examines Frankand#8217;s workand#160;pictorially.and#160;
Taking Frankand#8217;s iconic images as his point of reference, Day shot new photographs that commented on the road and contemporary America. Here, these images are paired with critical commentary that details the aspects of the work that are visually expounded and explained in Dayand#8217;s complementary images. A visual entryway to the photographs and themes of this iconic book in the history of photography,and#160;Postcards from the Roadand#160;represents an innovative, carefully considered departure from standard photographic textbooks.
In the mid-1950s, Swiss-born New Yorker Robert Frank embarked on a ten-thousand-mile road trip across America, capturing thousands of photographs of all levels of a rapidly changing society. The resultant photo book, The Americans, represents a seminal moment in both photography and in America's understanding of itself. To mark the books fiftieth anniversary, Jonathan Day revisits this pivotal work and contributes a thoughtful and revealing critical commentary. Though the importance of The Americans has been widely acknowledged, it still retains much of its mystery. This comprehensive analysis places it thoroughly in the context of contemporary photography, literature, music, and advertising from its own period through the present.
For visual thinkers and students, particularly in these sound bite days, blocks of text are rarely the most effective way into a subject. Visual exposition of the kind proposed here, supported by textual exegesis enormously enhances and facilitates comprehension. The proposed volume will present paired images across a double page spread, with a small (perhaps third page size) image of Frank's photograph on the lower left page, a two thirds page size new and#145;commentary and#150; expositionand#8217; photograph on the right, with two blocks of text. On the left above the Frank image will be a critical commentary which details the aspects of Frank's work that are evidenced by his photograph and are visually expounded and explained in my complementary photograph (my previous work will, I hope, assure you of my ability to complete this task effectively). On the right page will be a shorter contextualising statement, written in a style designed to be accessible to current readers but also inspired by writings contemporary to Frank (Kerouac for example), detailing the circumstances and motivations by which the new photograph was created.
About the Author
Jonathan Day is professor of transmedia arts at the Art Institute of Birmingham UK, steering member of the Birmingham Photography and Archive Research Group, and visiting professor at IVE, Hong Kong; Silpakorn University, Bangkok, Thailand; and the Academy of Design, Colombo, Sri Lanka.
Table of Contents
Foreword: Robert Frank
Part One: America and The Americans
1. Frank and the ‘50s
2. Developing The Americans
3. A Divided World: ‘Art and ‘Documentary Photography
4. The Creation, Selection and Programming of The Americans Images: All That Jazz
5. Image and Text
Part Two: Themes in The Americans
6. People of the Flag
7. On the Road
8. Losing My Religion: New Icons For a New Civilization
9. The Americans Response To The Family of Man Exhibition
10. The Americans and the Promotional Images of the Standard Oil Company
11. The Primacy of the Visual
Part Three: The Americans As a Photographic Sequence
12. Tracing the Lines of His Hand
Photographs in The Americans