Charleston, Robert Frank

Robert Frank (American, born Switzerland 1924) 

Charleston, 1956 

Silver gelatin print 

Purchase, 1989 (20601) 

American photographer and documentary filmmaker Robert Frank’s most notable body of work, The Americans, 1955-57, provided a fresh view of American society. Critic Sean O’Hagan, writing in The Guardian in 2014, said The Americans "changed the nature of photography, what it could say and how it could say it." 

Frank immigrated to the United States in 1947, securing a job in New York City as a fashion photographer, but soon left to travel in South America and Europe. Returning to New York in 1950, Frank met photographer and curator Edward Steichen and participated in the group show 51 American Photographers which Steichen organized at the Museum of Modern Art. Frank secured a John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Fellowship in 1955 to travel across the United States and photograph, visiting places in the South, the Midwest, West and West Coast during which he took 28,000 shots. 

Shortly after returning to New York in 1957, Frank met writer Jack Kerouac and showed him the photographs from his travels. Kerouac immediately offered to write something about these pictures, and he contributed the introduction to the U.S. edition of the 1958 book The Americans, in which 83 of the images were reproduced. In his introduction Kerouac reflects on this nurse and her charge in Charleston, South Carolina. ". . . the sweet little white baby in the black nurse's arms both of them bemused in Heaven, a picture that should have been blown up and hung in the streets of Little Rock showing love under the sky and the womb of our universe the Mother . . ."