Robert Frank's The Americans

View a gallery of Robert Frank images


A few years ago I was a humanities graduate student faced with the daunting task of writing a master’s thesis, obligatory for graduation and freedom.  I knew I needed a topic that would see me through the long hours of research and the even longer hours of writing it.  After chasing a few topics that led nowhere, I decided that it made the most sense to write about something I loved.  For me, then, photographer Robert Frank was the only logical choice.

City Fathers, Hoboken, New Jersey, 1955

I finished my thesis over 4 years ago, defended it, and left it behind. It certainly never dawned on me that I would one day meet Robert Frank; truthfully, the idea of meeting my subject only made me worry what on earth he would say to my academic drivel.

But, life’s a funny thing, and when I saw that the National Gallery of Art was hosting a 50th anniversary exhibit on The Americans, I put in a request for an interview. It was granted, and we hosted Frank here at our studios. Even at 84 years old, Frank still speaks thoughtfully about his work. He’s an artist who has been at his craft for a lifetime and still is inspired and interested in what he can create. For me, the most memorable moment of his visit happened as I walked him downstairs: he asked me if I shot photographs, and I admitted that my habit of dropping expensive cameras had sort of turned me off. He reached in his pocket and pulled out a small, snapshot film camera. He held it for a moment, looked at me, and said, “You should always have a camera with you. Nothing fancy, nothing expensive, you don’t need that. But you should take pictures every day. You will be glad you did.”



“Looking In: Robert Frank’s The Americans” is open at the National Gallery of Art in Washington DC until April 26th.

Robert Frank Gallery