Robert Frank told the crowd at the opening of his new exhibition that having his work in a touring show is an opportunity to “have the photography come to life again.” The retrospective exhibition, “Robert Frank: Books and Films, 1947-2016,” opened at the Tisch School of the Arts at New York University last night, and will also be on view at 50 universities, art schools, museums and other non-profit spaces worldwide throughout the year. The 91-year-old master photographer was accompanied by his wife, June Leaf, and renowned book publisher Gerhard Steidl. Steidl’s company, Steidl Verlag, organized the touring exhibition.
Frank—who left his home country of Switzerland for the United States in 1947 and captured post-war American society in his influential book The Americans, published in 1959— briefly answered questions provided by both Steidl and audience members. The show includes images from The Americans and other series Frank has made throughout his career, personal correspondence with curators and editors, and reproductions of contact sheets, showing images he selected by circling them with a red grease pencil. Frank said the photos included in the show “make you really think back about life… it can be better to look forward, but I’m happy to see the photographs live again and to be appreciated,” he said. Frank, whose documentary work and artistic experimentations have influenced generations of photographers noted, “Sometimes a photograph can live longer because it becomes an image that lives in people’s minds and they remember it. That probably is the best thing about my photography and I’m here to say thank you, and come again.” Steidl said the show “is for younger generations” less familiar with Frank’s work.
As the exhibition tours the U.S., each venue will receive its own set of exhibition prints. At NYU, where the show is on view through February 11, the images, printed on three-meter-long banners, are unframed and stuck to the walls. By agreement with Frank, all the paper banners are to be disposed of after display to ensure that none of the images are sold or re-used.
In looking back on the decisions he has made, Frank said, “America is the country that has given me encouragement. It’s the place to be. For me, it worked out that way….it might not be this way today for many young people, but at that time it definitely was and [I am thankful] to be here and look at all the people who come to see the work.”