Snapshots From the American Road
By PHILIP GEFTER
WHILE his dark, penetrating eyes still radiate intensity, Robert Frank, at 84, is not as mobile as he used to be, shuffling in slow motion around a modern one-bedroom apartment in a high-rise on the Lower East Side of Manhattan. His wife, the artist June Leaf, explained that they rent the apartment because it is harder for him these days to navigate the nondescript three-story house where they have lived, a few blocks away, since the 1970s.
The living room is spare, a white box with just a few pieces of well-worn furniture — a lived-in couch, some old chairs and the old wooden table where Mr. Frank recently sat for an interview, near a bank of windows yielding an unobstructed view of Midtown, the Empire State Building and the Chrysler Building off-center in the frame.
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. While he has produced other volumes over the years and made 31 films and videos, all roads in his career lead back to this masterpiece, “The Americans,” an intimate visual chronicle of common people in ordinary situations drawn from several trips he made through his adopted country in the mid-1950s.( Collapse )