If you are down about the American economy and the prospects for 2009 and beyond, don’t be. Take a look at this book – and at this first link about that book – to see how greatly much of America has changed in the 50+ years since the mid-1950’s. Obama’s America in 2009 is a vastly different place than shown in the photographs in “The Americans”.
As written by Philip Gefter at the New York Times (Art & Design section online):
““The Americans,” [is] an intimate visual chronicle of common people in ordinary situations drawn from several trips he made through his adopted country in the mid-1950s.“
The Americans, by Robert Frank, a classic photographic study of the United States in the 1950’s, was first published May 15, 1958, by Robert Delpire in Paris, followed by an English edition in 1959 via Grove Press in New York, in which the original French language by Alain Bosquet about American history was replaced by an introduction and captions in English by Jack Kerouac.
As written at aloHAA:
“The end result [of Frank’s photographic journey through the USA in the 1950’s] was the 83 images in the book that no American publisher would touch. It took a Frenchman, Robert Delpire, to publish “Les Americains” in 1958. Progressive publisher Barney Rosset produced the first American edition under his Grove Press the following year. Frank revealed a harsh, sometimes divided America that was a lot different from the rah-rah ’50s dream of “Father Knows Best.” His out-of-the-box compositions paved the way for William Eggleston’s profound color images of America that have garnered unanimous applause in the Whitney’s “William Eggleston: Democratic Camera.” “No one has had a greater influence on photography in the last half-century than the Swiss-born Mr. Frank, though his reputation rests almost entirely on a single book published five decades ago,” writes Philip Gefter in the New York Times. “
The German publisher Steidl in Göttingen,
together with the National Gallery of Art in Washington D.C.
in 2008 published a new version of the book in three languages:
Frank, 83 years old at the date of publication – a number which corresponds to the 83 tritone plates in the book, chosen out of 20,000 photographs – worked intensively himself on this new version of his now classic book, including for example using some negatives varying from previous editions.
The 13-character ISBN for the English version of the book is: 978-3-86521-584-0.
The 13-character ISBN for the German version of the book is: 978-3-86521-658-8.
The 13-character ISBN for the Chinese version of the book is: 978-3-86521-657-1.
This book is a “must have” for any library that includes materials on America.
For those of my friends in Nebraska, where I grew up, two of the plates in the book are from Nebraska, one of highway 30 between Ogallala and North Platte, and the other of Hested’s department store in Lincoln. I’ve seen both, and, yes, that’s exactly the way it looked.