June 15 - 28, 2020
Born in Zurich in 1924, Robert Frank began his career in photography in the mid-1940s before emigrating to America in 1947. As an immigrant, Frank was fascinated by America and after his first travels around the country he applied for a Guggenheim Fellowship to fund a longer and deeper journey around all parts of the country.
Frank’s journey resulted in the publication of his groundbreaking book “The Americans” but as Frank later expressed on numerous occasions what disturbed him most was the systemic racism he saw and was best captured in the famous “Trolley Car, New Orleans”. (For a great exegesis of this photograph read Arthur Lubow’s piece in last week’s New York Times.) Yet beyond the atypical symbolism of this picture most of Frank’s other photographs of black people are by turns intimate, respectful, and far from stereotypical or clichéd. Looking back at the work – not just from “The Americans” but at the photographs that did not make the edit – it is clear that to Frank black lives mattered.
As a foreign born Jew, Frank had faced some of the same treatment as blacks when he traveled through the south. (In 1955 while driving through Arkansas, Frank was arrested, interrogated, and jailed after the commanding police officer of Little Rock stopped him as he was driving with New York license plates and noted “that he was shabbily dressed, needed a shave and a haircut, also a bath”. As Frank told Nicholas Dawidoff in The New York Times Magazine in 2015, ‘‘That trip I got to like black people so much more than white people.’’
Frank’s photographs of black lives – the boys in the convertible in Detroit; the woman resting on a kitchen chair; the singing group in Belle Isle; the preacher by the banks of the Mississippi River; the South Carolina Funeral – all, somewhat atypically for photography of the period, present black people simply as part of the fabric of America. He identifies with these subjects as equals and not as “the other”. “I try to see the inside in the outside.” Frank said about his photography in general. What better philosophy to live by.
Danziger Gallery stands firmly behind the fundamental issue of human rights. We have spent the last few weeks listening, marching, and supporting Black Lives Matter. As a gallery, we stand together with those fighting for equality and justice and are committed to positive change in our lives and throughout our industry. We are hopeful for a better future for our country and are dedicated to helping to pave the road to a new future.