M. Martausova


One of the most outstanding visual observers of the 20th-century, Robert Frank, who died in 2019, left behind a spectacular body of photography documenting what he and critics called ‘real’ American lives. When his most influential work, ‘The Americans’, was first published in 1959, critics did not immediately recognize Frank's genius. Nevertheless, his style that celebrated ordinary Americana strongly characterized by the Beats’ spirit even-tually became one of the most celebrated photographic books of the 20th century. Having taken pictures of the low, the white, the suburban, the African-American, "scenes that have never been seen before on film" (Jack Kerouac, 1958), Frank changed how docu-mentary photography represented society and its people. This paper revisits Robert Frank's work observing his legacy in the 21stcentury and the impact his different yet au-thentic approach to photography has had on contemporary American photography, focus-ing on the course documentary photography has taken as a result of advanced technology and accelerated distribution of information. The study discusses contemporary influences that alter the way documentary photography is produced, distributed, stored, shared and observed, as crucial determinants of photography's status and function to represent reali-ties of 21st century America.


documentary photography; Robert Frank; Americans; auteur; 21st-century; legacy; movements

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