Press release

Robert Frank's Groundbreaking Photographs Featured in Major Exhibition Marking 50th Anniversary of His Book The Americans

Exhibition Dates: September 22, 2009–January 3, 2010
Exhibition Location: Galleries for Drawings, Prints and Photographs, and The Howard Gilman Gallery, second floor
Press Preview: Monday, September 21, 10 a.m.–noon

The 50th anniversary of the publication of The Americans, Robert Frank's ground-breaking book of black-and-white photographs, will be celebrated with the major exhibition Looking In: Robert Frank's The Americans, on view at The Metropolitan Museum of Art September 22, 2009–January 3, 2010. Robert Frank is one of the great living masters of photography, and his seminal book The Americans captured a culture on the brink of social upheaval. The exhibition traces the artist's process of creating this once-controversial suite of photographs, which grew out of several cross-country road trips in 1955 and 1956. Born in Switzerland in 1924, Frank was an outsider encountering much of America for the first time; he discovered its power, its vastness, and—at times—its troubling emptiness. Although Frank's depiction of American life was criticized when the book was released in the U.S. in 1959, The Americans soon became recognized as a masterpiece of 20th-century art. Looking In: Robert Frank's The Americans features all 83 photographs from his original book. Remarkably, the exhibition at the Metropolitan will be the first time that this body of work is presented in its entirety to a New York audience.

The exhibition is made possible by Access Industries and the Blavatnik Family Foundation.
Additional support is provided by the William Randolph Hearst Foundation.
The exhibition was organized by the National Gallery of Art, Washington.

Looking In: Robert Frank's The Americans is the most comprehensive and in-depth exploration of Frank's original book ever undertaken and will feature more than 100 photographs, 17 books, and 15 manuscripts, as well as 22 contact sheets made from the artist's negatives. First published in France in 1958, The Americans remains the single most important book of photographs published since World War II. The exhibition begins with an examination of the roots of The Americans through a display of Frank's earlier books and other series of photographs made in Europe, Peru, and New York in the late 1940s and early 1950s. In this prefatory group of works, the artist had already established his style of street photography and his thoughtful approach to sequencing his photographs.

In 1955 and 1956, with funding from a Guggenheim Fellowship, the young photographer undertook a 10,000-mile Beat-inflected journey across more than 30 states. While crisscrossing the U.S., Frank made more than 27,000 photographs. The exhibition follows the artist's process through his production of more than 1,000 work prints, and a year spent editing the images, selecting the photographs, and constructing the sequence. A large display comprised of rough work prints Frank made in 1956 and 1957 reveals the themes he wanted his book to explore: racism, politics, consumer culture, families, and the way Americans lived, worked, and played. Vintage contact sheets and letters to photographer Walker Evans and author Jack Kerouac also help trace Frank's preparations and planning for the book.

The centerpiece of the exhibition is the presentation of all 83 photographs from The Americans, often in rarely exhibited vintage prints, and in the sequence that Frank established. The first image in the book, Parade—Hoboken, New Jersey (1955) sets the tone for Frank's journey of discovery across the country: two women stand in their respective windows, one face in shadow, the other's view obstructed by a large and billowing American flag. Trolley—New Orleans (1955), a signature work by Frank in the Museum's collection, depicts streetcar passengers of different ages, genders, and races that brings to the forefront racial politics in the segregated South and the hierarchies among men and women, the young and the old.

Frank often focused on introspective individuals. Rodeo—New York City (1954) is a study of a cowboy—not in the West, but on the streets of Manhattan, in town for a show at Madison Square Garden. Elevator—Miami Beach (1955) inspired Jack Kerouac to write in his introduction to the original book, "…that little ole lonely elevator girl looking up sighing in an elevator full of blurred demons, what's her name and address?"

Frank also found beauty in overlooked corners of the country and, in the process, helped redefine the icons of America. U.S. 285, New Mexico (1955) is a view of the open highway that reminds us of the raw poetry of the journey itself. In his photographs of diners, cars, and the road, Frank pioneered a seemingly intuitive, off-kilter style that was as innovative as his choice of subjects. Equally influential was the way he sequenced photographs in The Americans, linking them thematically, formally, and emotionally, and ultimately creating a haunting picture of mid-century America.

The conclusion of the exhibition addresses the impact of The Americans on Frank's subsequent career and includes still photographs and a short film made by the artist in 2008 especially for this exhibition.

The exhibition was organized by Sarah Greenough, senior curator of photographs at the National Gallery of Art. It is organized at the Metropolitan Museum by Jeff L. Rosenheim, Curator in the Department of Photographs.

The exhibition is accompanied by a catalogue published in two different editions by the National Gallery of Art in association with Steidl. The 396-page softcover edition features 384 illustrations and essays by Sarah Greenough, Jeff L. Rosenheim, Anne Wilkes Tucker, Stuart Alexander, Martin Gasser, Michel Frizot, Luc Sante, and Philip Brookman. The hardcover edition was expanded to also include reproductions of the artist's contact sheets, correspondence, and archival documents; a comparison of varying editions of The Americans; and a chronology and map. The hardcover edition is 528 pages with 486 illustrations. Both editions will be available in the Museum's bookshops ($75 hardcover, $45 softcover), as well as the facsimile of the original U.S. edition of The Americans (Steidl, $39.95).

The Metropolitan Museum will offer extensive programming in conjunction with the exhibition. In "An Evening with Robert Frank" on October 9, the artist—in a rare public appearance—will discuss his career in photography and film, in conversation with Jeff L. Rosenheim and Sarah Greenough. Other programs include: a Sunday at the Met program on October 4 featuring a panel discussion with Jeff L. Rosenheim, writer and critic Luc Sante, and publisher Barney Rosset; and a Robert Frank film series in October, featuring Pull My Daisy (1959), Conversations in Vermont (1969), Me and My Brother (1965–68), Cocksucker Blues (1972), and Candy Mountain (1987). The Museum will also present a concert in honor of the artist by Patti Smith on October 17 titled "A Salute to Robert Frank, Artist and Friend." All of these programs will take place in the Metropolitan Museum's Grace Rainey Rogers Auditorium.

Screenings of films and videos by the artist will also take place in the Uris Center for Education, including Life-raft Earth, About Me: A Musical, Life Dances On, Energy and How to Get It, Keep Busy, Home Improvements, C'est Vrai, and Last Supper. Additional programming includes a "Film and Art" class for ages 15-18; numerous gallery talks by curator Jeff L. Rosenheim; a "Picture This!" workshop for adults who are blind or partially sighted; a photography class for people with visual impairments; and a teacher workshop. The exhibition also will be accompanied by a podcast and will be featured on the Museum's website at

The exhibition was previously on view at National Gallery of Art, Washington, and the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art.

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August 24, 2009


An Evening with Robert Frank

Robert Frank, photographer and filmmaker
Jeff L. Rosenheim, curator, Department of Photographs, The Metropolitan Museum of Art
Sarah Greenough, senior curator of Photographs, National Gallery of Art, Washington

Robert Frank, born in Switzerland in 1924, is one of the great living masters of photography. In a rare New York City appearance, he discusses with curators Jeff L. Rosenheim and Sarah Greenough his career in photography and film and the conception, execution, and response to his groundbreaking book of photographs, The Americans, which is celebrating its fiftieth anniversary.
Friday, October 9, 6:00: $23 SOLD OUT
The Grace Rainey Rogers Auditorium
Standing-room tickets sold one hour prior to the concert. Box office opens at 6:00.

Robert Frank Film Series

All screenings are introduced by Jeff L. Rosenheim and presented in
The Grace Rainey Rogers Auditorium.

Saturday, October 10, 2:30
Pull My Daisy (1959). Frank's first film (co-directed by Alfred Leslie), with narration by Jack Kerouac, is a classic look at the soul of the Beat generation. With Richard Bellamy, Allen Ginsberg, Peter Orlovsky, Larry Rivers, and Alice Neel.
Conversations in Vermont (1969). Short autobiographical film (featuring camera work by Ralph Gibson) about Frank and his relationship with his children, Pablo and Andrea, and their experiences growing up with two artist-parents.

Saturday, October 17, 2:30
Me and My Brother (1965–68). Frank's first feature-length film combines documentary and fiction filmmaking and is ostensibly about the Beat lifestyle and madness. With Allen Ginsberg, Peter Orlovsky, and Julius Orlovsky. Co-written by Sam Shepard.

Saturday, October 24, 2:30
Cocksucker Blues (1972). Unreleased documentary (and underground classic) on the Rolling Stones' 1972 American tour. Please note: contains explicit adult content.

Saturday, October 31, 2:30
Candy Mountain (1987). Feature film about a meandering road trip and the search for the elusive, world's most famous electric guitar maker. With Tom Waits, Leon Redbone, and Dr. John.
$40 for four screenings; single tickets $15


Patti Smith: A Salute to Robert Frank, Artist and Friend
Patti Smith, Jesse Smith, and guests

I keep trying to figure out what it means to be American. When I look in myself I see Abyssinia, nineteenth-century France, but I can't recognize what makes me American. I think about Robert Frank's photographs—broke down jukeboxes in Gallup, New Mexico, swaying hips and spurs, ponytails and syphilitic cowpokes, hash slingers, the glowing black tarp of US 285 and the Hoboken stars and stripes.

I think about a red, white and blue rag
I wrap around my head.
Maybe it's nothing material; maybe it's just being free. Freedom is a waterfall, is pacing linoleum till dawn,
the right to write the wrong words.
And I done plenty of that...

—excerpt from Patti Smith's notebook, April 1971

Saturday, October 17, 7:00: $40 SOLD OUT
The Grace Rainey Rogers Auditorium
Standing-room tickets sold one hour prior to the concert. Box office opens at 6:00.

For subscription program tickets call (212) 570-3949, Monday–Saturday, 9:30–5:00, and Sunday, 12:00–5:00. You may also visit the Concerts & Lectures box office in the Museum's Great Hall, Tuesday–Saturday, 10:00–5:00, and Sunday, 12:00–5:00, or go to


Sunday, October 4
The Grace Rainey Rogers Auditorium

This afternoon program—featuring a brief introductory talk, panel discussion, and film—highlights Robert Frank's suite of black-and-white photographs made on a cross-country road trip as a Guggenheim Fellow in 1955–56.


2:00Looking In: Robert Frank's The Americans—An Introduction
Jeff L. Rosenheim, curator, Department of Photographs, The Metropolitan Museum of Art

Panel Discussion

2:30 Robert Frank, Jack Kerouac, and Avant-garde Visual Culture of the Late 1950s
Jeff L. Rosenheim moderates a panel with Luc Sante, writer and critic, and author of Lowlife: Lures and Snares of Old New York (1991); and Barney Rosset, legendary former owner of Grove Press and founder of Evergreen Review. Known for printing such censored classics as D. H. Lawrence's Lady Chatterley's Lover and Henry Miller's Tropic of Cancer, Rosset released Frank's groundbreaking book, The Americans, in 1959 with an introduction written by Jack Kerouac.


3:15 Leaving Home Coming Home: A Portrait of Robert Frank (2005)
Gerald Fox, director. The award-winning biographical film presents a deep look inside Frank's personal and creative life. The documentary includes extensive on-camera interviews with Frank (86 min.).


All talks given by Jeff L. Rosenheim at 11:00. Meet at exhibition entrance, Galleries for Drawings, Prints, and Photographs and The Howard Gilman Gallery, second floor.

Thursday, September 24
Wednesday, October 7
Tuesday, October 20 (Sign Language–interpreted)
Tuesday, November 10
Tuesday, December 1
Thursday, December 10
Friday, December 18


These screenings are held in Bonnie J. Sacerdote Lecture Hall, Uris Center for Education.

Tuesday, September 29, 2:00
Life-raft Earth (1969), Robert Frank, director. Documents a "happening" about world hunger (37 min.); About Me: A Musical (1980), Robert Frank, director. A symbolic self-examination of Frank's contribution as a photographer (35 min.).

Thursday, October 1, 2:00
Life Dances On (1980), Robert Frank, director. A personal tribute to family and friends (30 min.); Energy and How to Get It (1981), Robert Frank, director. This portrait of an engineer, who was developing fusion as an energy source, combines documentary and fictional ideas (28 min.).

Tuesday, October 27, 2:00
Keep Busy (1975), Robert Frank, director. Improvised story about a group of people living on an island off Nova Scotia (30 min.); Home Improvements (1985), Robert Frank, director. Poignant diary about the relationship between Frank's life as an artist and his personal life (29 min.).

Thursday, October 29, 2:00
C'est Vrai (1990), Robert Frank, director. A trip through New York City's Lower East Side, produced on video without editing the narrative (60 min.).

Friday, November 13, 6:00
An American Journey (2009), Philippe Séclier, director. French filmmaker Séclier retraces Robert Frank's cross-country trip and explores the impact of The Americans on photography and culture (58 min.).

Tuesday, November 17, 2:00
Last Supper (1992), Robert Frank, director. In an empty lot in Harlem, an elite group of New Yorkers prepares for a book-signing party given in honor of a writer who never shows up (52 min.).

Thursday, November 19, 2:00
Flamingo (1997), Robert Frank, director. Records the construction of a new foundation for Frank's house in a remote area of Nova Scotia (7 min.); I Remember (1998), Robert Frank, director. Re-enactment of Frank's visit to the home of Alfred Stieglitz (5 min.); Sanyu (1999), Robert Frank, director. Tribute to Frank's friend Sanyu, a Chinese artist who died in anonymity (27 min.); Fire in the East: A Portrait of Robert Frank (1986), Philip and Amy Brookman, directors. Explores four decades of Frank's life, films, and photographs (28 min.).

Friday, December 4, 6:00 and Thursday, December 17, 2:00
Leaving Home Coming Home: A Portrait of Robert Frank (2005), Gerald Fox, director. This award-winning biographical film presents a deep look inside Frank's personal and creative life. The documentary includes extensive on-camera interviews with Frank (86 min.).

Tuesday, December 15, 2:00
Paper Route (2002), Robert Frank, director. Frank accompanies a man on his daily route delivering newspapers in a rural Nova Scotia community (23 min.); True Story (2004), Robert Frank, director. Using scenes shot in his homes in New York and Nova Scotia, along with photographs and excerpts from previous films, Frank reflects on his life (26 min.).


Robert Frank Writing Contest
The College Group at the Met and Symphony Space, a multidisciplinary performing arts center, invite undergraduate students to write and submit a short story inspired by a photograph from Frank's series The Americans. Professional actors will read two winning stories during a performance of "Selected Shorts," also featuring works written by Frank's contemporaries, including Jack Kerouac and Allen Ginsberg. Details are available on the Met's website:

Flickr GROUP

"You Got Eyes" Flickr Group
To invite visitors to tell a story through photography, as Robert Frank did with The Americans, the Museum is hosting a group on called "You Got Eyes." Through photography, explore social or humanitarian issues, and explain what inspires and/or troubles you. For details visit

Photographs from the group will be displayed on the Museum's website.


Looking In: Robert Frank's The Americans
Robert Frank's photographs, made on a cross-country road trip in 1955–56, offer a compelling portrait of the United States during times of great change. Discuss the photographs in the exhibition and possible classroom teaching approaches with the exhibition curator and Museum educators. Participants are provided with a complimentary ticket to a special screening of the Robert Frank film Me and My Brother at 2:30 the same afternoon. For information and to register, go to, call (212) 570-3985, or email

Instructors: Jeff L. Rosenheim, Aimee Dixon, and Rosa Tejada
Saturday, October 17, 10:00–1:00, $40


Family Orientations—Looking In: Robert Frank's The Americans
Designed for young visitors and their adult companions, these engaging slide introductions to the special exhibition are followed by lively discussion in the galleries.
Saturday, November 14, 21, and 28, 1:30–2:30 and 3:00–4:00


El Museo invita los niños entre cuatro y diez años de edad y sus familias a participar en nuestros talleres educativos. En las galerías charlaremos sobre diferentes temas, y los niños tendrán oportunidad de aprender y divertirse haciendo dibujos y actividades didácticas.

Nos reuniremos en Carson Family Hall en el Uris Center for Education. Para más información o reservar plaza, por favor llamen al (212) 650-2833 o envíen un correo electrónico al:

La identidad norteamericana: Robert Frank
El sábado 12 de diciembre desde las 11:30 de la mañana hasta la 1:00 de la tarde


"Picture This!" A Workshop for Visitors Who Are Blind or Partially Sighted
This workshop for adults makes artworks in the exhibition accessible through detailed descriptions, touch, and other activities to awaken the senses. This program is free, but places are limited, so reservations are required. Please call (212) 650-2010 or email Thursday, October 15, 2:00–3:30

The Museum is committed to serving all audiences. Please call (212) 650-2010 or email us at about programs and services, including Sign Language–interpreted programs, Verbal Imaging Tours, the Touch Collection, and other programs.


Nolen Library has information about the Museum's collection and special exhibitions, and a Teacher Resource Center with a circulating collection for educators. There is also a Children's Reading Room, a specially designed space for families to read together from books in the library's collection. For hours and further information, please call (212) 570-3788.


For further information about our programs, visit the Museum's website at

Looking In: Robert Frank's The Americans
The exhibition is made possible by Access Industries and the Blavatnik Family Foundation.
Additional support is provided by the William Randolph Hearst Foundation.
The exhibition was organized by the National Gallery of Art, Washington.

The film and video of Robert Frank is distributed by The Museum of Fine Arts, Houston.

We are grateful to the following for their support of educational programs:
Family Programs at The Metropolitan Museum of Art are supported by:
the Uris Brothers Foundation Endowment; the Pat and John Rosenwald Fund;
Mr. and Mrs. Marvin H. Schein; The Aronson Family Foundation; and Epstein Teicher Philanthropies.

El Primer Contacto con Arte ha sido posible, en parte, gracias al patrocinio de: The Goodman Memorial
Foundation, Inc. y The Samuel and Rae Eckman Charitable Foundation, Inc.

Access programs at The Metropolitan Museum of Art are made possible by MetLife Foundation.
Access programs are also made possible by the generous support of the Filomen M. D'Agostino
Foundation. Additional support has been provided by The Ceil & Michael E. Pulitzer Foundation, Inc.,
the Renate, Hans & Maria Hofmann Trust, the Allene Reuss Memorial Trust, The Murray G. and
Beatrice H. Sherman Charitable Trust, the Stella and Charles Guttman Foundation, Inc., and Jane B. Wachsler.

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