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Old 12-10-2018   #41
olifaunt
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Originally Posted by Pioneer View Post
But it seems that all we want to celebrate is the myopic view of one displaced and unhappy European immigrant who did not understand our country, and obviously did not like it. The irony and melancholy evident in his photos make his attitude abundantly clear.
I knew the book was controversial in its time.

I bought it recently and liked it. For the life of me, I couldn't see a single photo in this book that looked even remotely controversial to me, so I simply don't get the criticism. Irony and melancholy are some basic ingredients of good street photography, so that in itself is not a valid criticism. I am an immigrant so maybe I don't get the nuances, but if you could maybe point out a couple of offending photos that might be helpful.
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Old 12-10-2018   #42
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A few Robert Frank images. I cant help but feel (though I am sure it is unjustified) that the best street photos are those made in the 1950s and 1960s.
I would agree, but add the 70s, especially the work of Winogrand and (early) Meyerowitz, who took over the reins where Frank stopped.
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Old 12-10-2018   #43
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I'd disagree that the best street photos were made in 50s/60s/70s.

Plenty of people taking excellent street photography now in the present day. Merel Schoneveld for one (@merel_schoneveld on Instagram) is a Dutch street photographer and has a fantastic eye
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Old 12-10-2018   #44
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Originally Posted by olifaunt View Post
I knew the book was controversial in its time.

I bought it recently and liked it. For the life of me, I couldn't see a single photo in this book that looked even remotely controversial to me, so I simply don't get the criticism. Irony and melancholy are some basic ingredients of good street photography, so that in itself is not a valid criticism. I am an immigrant so maybe I don't get the nuances, but if you could maybe point out a couple of offending photos that might be helpful.
I don't think anyone is really interested in having me go through Robert Frank's book and picking apart his photographs one by one. For one, I am really not interested in doing that.

Another problem now is that many of his photographs from that period have become more important from a historical perspective rather than the commentary value they may, or may not, have had at the time. I think that is one reason why the book has become more popular as time passes.

IMO his book is full of bad photographs but there is one photograph in particular that really does make me wonder if he even had any idea what he was doing in relation to what he claimed he wanted to do in his grant application. It really makes me wonder about his credibility as a street photographer.

Butte, Montana in the 50s was a huge, booming, mining town with the downtown area literally built right in and around the mine headframes. Although nothing like it was when Robert Frank was there it is still a great place to photograph if you ever get the opportunity. The tremendous possibilities for street photography that Robert Frank had in that hectic environment literally boggles my mind. I would have loved to have been there during that time period with a Leica in my hands. There had to be things happening left and right. With backdrops to that activity that you just can't find anywhere else.

So what does Robert Frank choose out of all that bedlam to aim his camera at?

A guy's feet up on a desk in a recruiting office.

What???

Even if you thought that the existence of a Navy recruiting office in the middle of Montana was a bit odd (a little ironic if you will), or that a recruiter taking a lunch time nap was photogenic, why would that become, out of all the possible opportunities, a photograph important enough for his book? To him it must have represented America in Butte, Montana.

He just makes no sense to me and his entire book is full of those things. I could go on but it is best if I don't.
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Old 12-10-2018   #45
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I don't think anyone is really interested in having me go through Robert Frank's book and picking apart his photographs one by one. For one, I am really not interested in doing that.

Another problem now is that many of his photographs from that period have become more important from a historical perspective rather than the commentary value they may, or may not, have had at the time. I think that is one reason why the book has become more popular as time passes.

IMO his book is full of bad photographs but there is one photograph in particular that really does make me wonder if he even had any idea what he was doing in relation to what he claimed he wanted to do in his grant application. It really makes me wonder about his credibility as a street photographer.

Butte, Montana in the 50s was a huge, booming, mining town with the downtown area literally built right in and around the mine headframes. Although nothing like it was when Robert Frank was there it is still a great place to photograph if you ever get the opportunity. The tremendous possibilities for street photography that Robert Frank had in that hectic environment literally boggles my mind. I would have loved to have been there during that time period with a Leica in my hands. There had to be things happening left and right. With backdrops to that activity that you just can't find anywhere else.

So what does Robert Frank choose out of all that bedlam to aim his camera at?

A guy's feet up on a desk in a recruiting office.

What???

Even if you thought that the existence of a Navy recruiting office in the middle of Montana was a bit odd (a little ironic if you will), or that a recruiter taking a lunch time nap was photogenic, why would that become, out of all the possible opportunities, a photograph important enough for his book? To him it must have represented America in Butte, Montana.

He just makes no sense to me and his entire book is full of those things. I could go on but it is best if I don't.
"A guy's feet up on a desk in a recruiting office."

Oh I don't know.........People have different approaches to photography. Saul Leiter did this kind of thing all the time but I guess as he was more obviously an art photographer not a documentary photographer people accepted it. (Though it took him till he was 80 to be recognized).

It's OK to make images for the simple reason that they look interesting rather than because they are significant or record something that "should" be recorded. And anyhow, sometimes its the little gestures like feet on a desk that speak like a 1000 words about how those people lived their lives back then. Anyhow that's what I think. Of course you are welcome to feel differently and there is nothing wrong with that.

I do agree with your comment about his photos becoming more valued with time. As the old joke goes, "they don't make nostalgia like they used to." I certainly love old images for what they convey to me about the world back then.

Leiter's equivalent of feet on a desk.

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Old 12-10-2018   #46
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Thanks Peter and John. I appreciate your feedback and, being fans, your tolerance of my feeble attempts at critique.

Enjoy the Holidays.
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