NEW YORK (AP) — Robert Frank, a giant of 20th-century photography whose seminal book “The Americans” captured singular, candid moments of the 1950s and helped free picture-taking from the boundaries of clean lighting and linear composition, has died. He was 94.
Frank died Monday in Inverness, on Cape Breton Island in Nova Scotia, according to his second wife, June Leaf. The couple divided their time between Nova Scotia and New York.
The Swiss-born Frank influenced countless photographers and was likened to Alexis de Tocqueville for so vividly capturing the United States through the eyes of a foreigner. Besides his still photography, Frank was a prolific filmmaker, creating more than 30 movies and videos, including a cult favorite about the Beats and a graphic, censored documentary of the Rolling Stones’ 1972 tour. Black-and-white Super 8 pictures by Frank were featured on the cover of the Stones’ “Exile On Main Street,” one of rock ‘n’ roll’s most acclaimed albums.
On Thursday, the band tweeted a tribute to Frank, calling him an “incredible artist whose unique style broke the mold.”
But he was best known for “The Americans,” a montage that countered the 1950s myth of bland prosperity and opened vast new possibilities for photography, shifting the paradigm from the portrait to the snapshot. As essential to post-war culture as a Chuck Berry song or a Beat poem, Frank’s shots featured jukeboxes, luncheonettes, cigars, big cars and endless highways, with an American flag often in the picture.