Week 5 Course Update: Let’s Be Frank

Another week has passed. This week feels a little foggy. Not too sure why. My brain could be reaching maximum capacity. It could be the changing seasons.

Monday:

Digital Imaging: Woooo hooooo!! We got to play with the first few tools. We messed around with brushes and select tools. It was fun. What were you doing monday morning? I bet that whatever you were doing, it wasn’t as much fun as I was having with my paint brush, magic wand and polygonal lasso tool.

Swimmingpool

As usual, Monday afternoon was spent reading for Criticism & Theory.

This week’s readings:

Martha Rosler’s essay “In, Around and Afterthoughts (On Documentary Photography)” in The Contest of Meaning, pp. 303-342.

John Berger’s essays “The Suit and the Photograph” and “Understanding a Photograph

Walter Benjamin’s “A Short History of Photography” Download it by clicking here: “A Small History of Photography” It’s the same thing, just a different translation from the one we read.

Tuesday I was supposed to lead the class discussion on the Martha Rosler piece but there wasn’t time, so that will be for next week.

Tuesday night I got over to the Burtynsky opening at Hasted Hunt Kraeutler. There was a good turn out including SVA MFA Alumni Matthew Pillsbury and Shulli Hallak.

Matthew was recently included in the BAM Photography Portfolio along with An-My Lê, Alec Soth, Richard Misrach and lots of other amazing photographers.

Night Operations III. An-My Lê
Night Operations III. An-My Lê
West Point, NY. Alec Soth
West Point, NY. Alec Soth
Richard Misrach
Richard Misrach
Matthew Pillsbury
Matthew Pillsbury

Wednesday, as you now know, starts off with lighting. It was a huge day. We finally made the move from piddly, little tungsten bulbs to big Profoto strobes. I don’t know how to use them yet, but soon I will and a whole new world will open up to me.

Wednesday afternoon jumped off with good old master crit. Looking at more students’ work. There was quite a bit of video in class this week. One piece involved multiple projectors, appropriated film footage and originally score!

We had a special visitor this week in Past Tense, Present Tense. Philip Gefter, former NY Times photo editor/writer turned freelance writer of books and essays,  came and shared a few of his many thoughts on Robert Frank. Also sitting in on class were faculty members Charles Traub, Randy West and Penelope Umbrico.  It was great getting to hear them all discuss Frank. There was a discussion about the world Frank was in and his photo lineage. Here it is:

Marlon Brando in The Wild One
Marlon Brando in The Wild One

Gun 1, New York. William Klein
Gun 1, New York. William Klein

Here is Robert Frank’s Guggenheim Fellowship Proposal:

Proposal Summary:

“To photograph freely throughout the United States, using the miniature camera exclusively. The making of a broad, voluminous picture record of things American, past and present. This project is essentially the visual study of a civilization and will include caption notes; but it is only partly documentary in nature: one of its aims is more artistic than the word documentary implies.”

The Full Statement:

“I am applying for a Fellowship with a very simple intention: I wish to continue, develop and widen the kind of work I already do, and have been doing for some ten years, and apply it to the American nation in general. I am submitting work that will be seen to be documentation — most broadly speaking. Work of this kind is, I believe, to be found carrying its own visual impact without much work explanation. The project I have in mind is one that will shape itself as it proceeds, and is essentially elastic. The material is there: the practice will be in the photographer’s hand, the vision in his mind. One says this with some embarrassment but one cannot do less than claim vision if one is to ask for consideration.

“The photographing of America” is a large order — read at all literally, the phrase would be an absurdity. What I have in mind, then, is observation and record of what one naturalized American finds to see in the United States that signifies the kind of civilization born here and spreading elsewhere. Incidentally, it is fair to assume that when an observant American travels abroad his eye will see freshly; and that the reverse may be true when a European eye looks at the United States. I speak of the things that are there, anywhere and everywhere — easily found, not easily selected and interpreted. A small catalog comes to the mind’s eye: a town at night, a parking lot, a supermarket, a highway, the man who owns three cars and the man who owns none, the farmer and his children, a new house and a warped clapboard house, the dictation of taste, the dream of grandeur, advertising, neon lights, the faces of the leaders and the faces of the followers, gas tanks and postoffices and backyards.

The uses of my project would be sociological, historical and aesthetic. My total production will be voluminous, as is usually the case when the photographer works with miniature film. I intend to classify and annotate my work on the spot, as I proceed. Ultimately the file I shall make should be deposited in a collection such as the one in the Library of Congress. A more immediate use I have in mind is both book and magazine publication.”

———–

It’s interesting to see some of Frank’s photos prior to The Americans, which are more traditionally formal in their compostitions:

Robert Frank
Robert Frank
Robert Frank
Robert Frank

but once he gets to America the classic perspectives and traditional framing are gone and replaced by decapitated people and tilted horizons:

Robert Frank
Parade - Hoboken, New Jersey 1955. Robert Frank
Political Rally - Chicago 1956. Robert Frank
Political Rally - Chicago 1956. Robert Frank
Mississippi River, Baton Rouge, Louisiana. 1955. Robert Frank
Mississippi River, Baton Rouge, Louisiana. 1955. Robert Frank

Frank has stated that both Walker Evans and Bill Brandt were huge influences:

Tod Papageorge’s essay “Walker Evans and Robert Frank: An Essay on Influence

Main St, Ossining, New York. 1932. Walker Evans
Main St, Ossining, New York. 1932. Walker Evans
Walker Evans
Walker Evans
Parlourmaid in Window, Kensington. Bill Brandt
Parlourmaid in Window, Kensington. Bill Brandt
Bill Brandt
Bill Brandt

After Frank? Go buy Philip Gefter’s book Photography After Frank. But, we did quickly mention:

Lee Friedlander
Lee Friedlander
Los Angeles, California 1969. Garry WInogrand
Los Angeles, California 1969. Garry Winogrand
US Route 10 Post Falls, Idaho. August 25, 1974. Stephen Shore
US Route 10 Post Falls, Idaho. August 25, 1974. Stephen Shore
Jackson, Mississippi. William Eggleston
Jackson, Mississippi. William Eggleston

Obviously the web of interconnectivity that includes Robert Frank is HUGE and we just scratched the surface in class.

And that was week number 5! Where will it go from here? What will next week bring? Not even I know…

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This entry was posted in 2009 Fall Courses, Alumni Relations, Gallery Openings, Homework, Readings, Teachers, video, Week In Review. Bookmark the permalink.

One Response to Week 5 Course Update: Let’s Be Frank

  1. kate says:

    Wow, what a group of people to have in your classroom! I just started reading Photography After Frank, and I love it.

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