Swiss-born émigré Robert Frank is still alive, now a venerated pioneer at ripe old age of 92. Perhaps it takes an outsider to capture the United States in all its contradictions and peculiarities, how else to explain how his The Americans remains the peak of photojournalist style – a little regarded anachronism upon initial release but now viewed as one of the most enduring photographic works of the last century (no hyperbole, it’s a pantheon piece).
Frank sees things no other photographer of that time did, such was the head-scratching curiosity behind the lens. In his stills everything is in uneasy transition, demographics colliding, wary-of-each-other generations co-inhabiting within the same evolving social and physical landscape.
These photos could even be mistaken as present-day portraits of America in the age of Trump, albeit shot in black and white and developed in one of those dark rooms of yesteryear, shoddily framed, apparently without regard for stylistic form and technical mastery. If Frank were to document the effects of so-called Globalism on Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania I offer the content would be eerily similar to his ’58 magnum opus.