“Mr. Frank was particularly drawn to the African American experience at a time when much of the country was still segregated. While driving in Arkansas in November 1955, he was stopped by police officers. Noticing that he spoke with a foreign accent and had a bottle of Hennessy cognac in his glove box, the officers asked Mr. Frank if he was a “commie.” He spent several hours in the local jail.
“That trip I got to like black people so much more than white people,” he later said.
He “was working against the currents of his time,” said Sarah Greenough, senior photography curator at the National Gallery of Art, which presented a retrospective of “The Americans” in 2009.
“While most magazines and other photographers were publishing pictures of America that celebrated American life as wholesome and optimistic — all Mom and apple pie —
Frank looked beneath the surface in America to reveal issues the country is still wrestling with to this day. He depicted people plagued by racism, ill-served by politicians, intoxicated by media and celebrities, and fascinated by the road itself.”
Robert Frank, 1924-2019, photographer