Originally Posted by olifaunt
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.
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.