Robert Frank Redux: Rethinking the Films and Photography of Robert Frank (1924-2019)

Caroline Blinder, Goldsmiths, University of London,

With Robert Frank’s passing in 2019, the time is ripe for a re-appraisal of his immensely varied oeuvre and its influence on American documentary photography and film. Taking Frank’s adage ‘I’m always looking outside, trying to look inside” as its starting point, this session will re-examine the formal and emotional properties of Frank’s work and in the process trace his move from being the quintessential ‘outsider’ documentarian of America in the 1950s to his allegedly more ‘inward’ photography and film work from the 1960s onwards.

The session will look both at his early iconic work The Americans (1958) and Frank’s later use of polaroids, films and video, and how they inscribed meaning into the frame through writing, fragmentation, and other forms of articulation. Always mindful of the mnemonic potential of the camera, Frank’s willingness to establish an autobiographical contract between himself and the reader/viewer epitomised how the documentary ethos took an experimental as well as lyrical turn in the post war era; from Robert Heinecken's photograms to Sally Mann's Southern landscapes, Frank's blurring of a private inner life and its public consumption was hugely influential. Throughout Frank’s work there is, then, a continued desire to question both the limits and potential of the photographic medium, a search that is also traceable – as this session will chart, in the anti-cinematic, experimental nature of his films and videos and their continued influence on the American art scene.

Call for Papers deadline 1 November 2021. Please submit your paper proposal to the convenor.



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