Robert Frank: Snapshots in time

In Look

There is a fragmented story in the best photographs: the capturing of an instant in time, a thought or a second of stillness in a world that has moved on and almost forgotten its past. This ability to capture a moment that leads to multiple, tangible possibilities – that is what Robert Frank mastered.

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These god damned stories with a beginning and an end

– Robert Frank

The exhibition of his work currently on show at Fotografsika in Stockholm shows the evolution of a lifetime of art. The exhibition moves from his early shots for his 1946 collection Fotos, compiled mostly in Switzerland, to his early journalistic work in New York and Paris, before moving onto real-life works of The Americans and films narrated by the Beat generation, as well as a Rolling Stones documentary. Throughout all of this work Frank took an entirely different approach to the photographic standards of the time, looking for another angle, a route into the possible stories that each image might suggest. He was ruthless with his selection; only 83 of the circa 28,000 photographs he took for The Americans made it through.

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It’s a fucking good film, Robert, but if it shows in America we’ll never be allowed in the country again.

– Mick Jagger’s supposed words to Robert Frank
on the documentary Cocksucker Blues.

His later work was more introspective, more personal, often focusing on his home of Mabou and the death of his daughter, then his son, often featuring constructed collages with words scratched onto the negatives. This period feels less assured, often scratchier, but some of the outcomes are simply sublime.

Robert Frank

When people look at my pictures I want them to feel the way they do when they want to read a line of a poem twice.

– Robert Frank, to Life Magazine

Frank’s work is a collection of short stories, reflected in cracked mirrors and loose ends, that never quite provide a semblance of the whole, but instead give rise to tantalising possibilities.

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