Iconic photographer Robert Frank, known for 'The Americans,' dead at 94

Frank captured black-and-white portraits of American life.

September 10, 2019, 7:39 PM

Documentary photographer Robert Frank, known for his black-and-white observations of American life, has died at 94.

Frank, born in Zurich in 1924, emigrated to New York in 1947 where he briefly worked as a fashion photographer for “Harper’s Bazaar” before leaving to travel in South America.

PHOTO: Parade, Hoboken, New Jersey, 1955.
Parade, Hoboken, New Jersey, 1955.
Robert Frank from The Americans, courtesy Pace/MacGill

Returning to New York in 1949, he spent the next few years traveling back and forth to cities in Europe working on photo projects.

PHOTO: Trolley, New Orleans, 1955.
Trolley, New Orleans, 1955.
Robert Frank from The Americans, courtesy Pace/MacGill

After receiving his first Guggenheim Fellowship in 1955, he traveled around the United States for two years, taking over 28,000 photos of the people and places he encountered along the way.

PHOTO: View from hotel window, Butte, Montana, 1956.
View from hotel window, Butte, Montana, 1956.
Robert Frank from The Americans, courtesy Pace MacGill

Eighty-three photos from his trip were published first in France and then in the U.S. in the 1959 monograph, "The Americans."

PHOTO: Charleston, South Carolina, 1955.
Charleston, South Carolina, 1955.
Robert Frank from The Americans, courtesy Pace MacGill

While the initial reception wasn’t entirely positive, it would eventually be appreciated for Frank’s ability to illustrate America’s troubles and beauty in a way that hadn’t quite been done before.

The book went on to inspire generations of documentary photographers and Frank continued to take photos and make films for decades.

PHOTO: Wales, Ben James, 1953.
Wales, Ben James, 1953.
Robert Frank from The Americans, courtesy Pace MacGill

Among his many honors, he received a Cornell Capa Infinity Award, while his work has been seen in galleries and museums around the world.

PHOTO: American photographer Robert Frank holding a pre-war Leica camera, 1954.
American photographer Robert Frank holding a pre-war Leica camera, 1954.
Fred Stein Archive/Getty Images

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