Wednesday, 9 July 2008

They were The Americans

I got a first look at my copy of the new edition of Robert Frank's "The Americans" at the weekend. There has been a lot of glowing praise and good words said about it in web-land. I thought I'd add a few of my initial thoughts, being new to the work.

First up, I was surpirsed by how physically small the book is. Great work doesn't ned huge enlargement. But I'm also sligthly disappointed by the size of the inmages on the page. Many are too large for me, running too close to the margins and often into the binding fold. I don't know how the original was, but this does distract somewhat from proper viewing of the images.

Next, I was struck by how much the total work seems like a documentary of a time and place. For sure, individual images stand as great work, and there are some interesting choices. Mostly, though, I'm surprised at how much the whole comes across as a work belonging to mid-'50s' America.

While many argue this is seminal, never to be repeated work, I somewhat disagree. I think a work like this could be undertaken once a generation and remain fresh. From my travels, I thnk there are many aspects that modern Americans would not recognise as their own country: baseball caps have replaced the fedoras, malls have replaced the corner-store and local bar.

From a photographic quality point of view I think this is a great book. The documentary aspects do seem to make it a little dated, however.

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