Robert Frank – The Americans

The Americans – copyright of Robert Frank published by Steidl, 2008 special edition

How one thing sometimes leads to another, as I had recently purchased a new Robert Frank book Paris while I was in Philadelphia and I figured it would be easy to relate Paris to The Americans without owning a copy of The Americans. In the fifty years since The Americans was published I think that with all of my other books, I must have every image that was published in Frank’s The Americans.

I also know that there was the big splash about Steidl re-publishing The Americans, but I also figured that this was some big splashy uber book from the Germans. Not so!

So when I came across a couple of copies at one of my favorite book stores I was impressed with what a manageable size the book is, measuring about 8-1/2″ x 7-1/2 and about 1″ thick. Nice, hand holdable and very readable. So I walked out of the book store with my impulse purchase of the day in hand.

Yes, in retrospect, I probably do (not) have every image from The Americans spread out in my book stacks, but that is difficult if not impossible to access. And it is really nice to have a classic photographic book that makes it so easy to look at the images in the proper sequence that the photographer had designed and layed out.

One thing to consider is that it is now hard to envision this book and the reaction to it with the late 1950’s mind set, even when you do find those late 1950’s and early 1960’s reviews. We now look at these photographs as a bit dated in terms of historical perspective, but can still marvel at the crispness of his vision that is articulated in this collection of photographs.

Now this is a book to be enjoyed and to help keep what we do today as documentary and street photographers in perspective. Now, of course, I have my own personal benchmark for my future article about another Robert Frank book – Paris.

Best regards, Douglas Stockdale

Updated 10-27-11: Turns out that I did not have all of the photographs from The Americans referenced elsewhere, more of the 80/20 rule: 80% of the photographs you find published from The Americans constitute only about 20% of the photographs of this body of work. So I choose to include some not as well known photographic pages to update my commentary.


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