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ROBERT FRANK
[b. 1924] American documentary photographer and filmmaker
I have been frequently accused of deliberately twisting subject matter to my point of view. Above all, I know that life for a photographer cannot be a matter of indifference. Opinion often consists of a kind of criticism. But criticism can come out of love. It is important to see what is invisible to others. Perhaps the look of hope or the look of sadness. Also, it is always the instantaneous reaction to oneself that produces a photograph. - Robert Frank - Page 115 of U.S. Camera 1958. Published by the U.S. Camera Publishing Corp. in 1957.

Above all, I know that life for a photographer cannot be a matter of indifference. - Robert Frank

You can photograph anything now. - Robert Frank

...to make a contemporaneous authentic document, the visual impact should be so easy to avoid any explanation. - Robert Frank

To produce an authentic contemporary document, the visual impact should be such as will nullify explanation. - Robert Frank

There is one thing the photograph must contain, the humanity of the moment. - Robert Frank

Black and white are the colors of photography. To me they symbolize the alternatives of hope and despair to which mankind is forever subjected. Most of my photographs are of people; they are seen simply, as through the eyes of the man in the street. There is one thing the photograph must contain, the humanity of the moment. This kind of photography is realism. But realism is not enough--there has to be vision, and the two together can make a good photograph. It is difficult to describe this thin line where matter ends and mind begins. - Robert Frank - From pages 20-22 of Aperture, vol. 9, no. 1 (1961)

I have been frequently accused of deliberately twisting subject matter to my point of view. Above all, I know that life for a photographer cannot be a matter of indifference. Opinion often consists of a kind of criticism. But criticism can come out of love. It is important to see what is invisible to others--perhaps the look of hope or the look of sadness. Also it is always the instantaneous reaction to oneself that produces a photograph. - Robert Frank

My photographs are not planned or composed in advance and I do not anticipate that the onlooker will share my viewpoint. However, I feel that if my photograph leaves an image on his mind--something has been accomplished. - Robert Frank

I’ve never been successful at making films, really. I’ve never been able to do it right. And there’s something terrific about that. There’s something good about being a failure--it keeps you going. - Robert Frank - 1975

I wished my photographs (the old ones) would move - or talk - to be a little more alive. But I can't talk for them. That's why there's so much written about photography today - by "experts". Contemporary photography is competent, often exquisite. It's easy to look at, and I prefer it if it's not in colour and not about whores in India or South America. The few photographs I'm trying to make show my interior against the landscape I'm in. At times I put in words -Soup - Strength - Fate - Blind. - Robert Frank

Above all, I know that life for a photographer cannot be a matter of indifference. - Robert Frank

After the success of The Americans, I didn't want to repeat myself, and so you keep looking for something. And it continues, even when I go back to my old stuff. So this search is something more interior, related to my sentimentality. I always say that I don't want to be sentimental, that the photographs shouldn't be sentimental, and yet, I am conscious of my sentimentality. - Robert Frank - from the interview in the back of "Hold Still Keep Going"

You do your work as a photographer and everything immediately becomes past. Words are more like thoughts; the photographer's picture is always surrounded by a kind of romantic glamor - no matter what you do, and how you twist it. - Robert Frank - from the interview in the back of "Hold Still Keep Going"

I have been frequently accused of deliberately twisting subject matter to my point of view. Above all, I know that life for a photographer cannot be a matter of indifference. Opinion often consists of a kind of criticism. But criticism can come out of love. It is important to see what is invisible to others. Perhaps the look of hope or the look of sadness. Also, it is always the instantaneous reaction to oneself that produces a photograph. - Robert Frank - [cited in: Creative Camera March 1968, p. 99] This is from page 115 of U.S.Camera 1958. Published by the U.S. Camera Publishing Corp. in 1957.

A message picture is something that's simply too clear. - Robert Frank, Disappearing Witness: Change in Twentieth-Century American Photography by Gretchen Garner , ISBN: 0801871670
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Somber people and black events quite people and peaceful places and the things people have come in contact with this, I try to show in my photographs. - Robert Frank

There is one thing the photograph must contain, the humanity of the moment. This kind of photography is realism. But realism is not enough – there has to be vision and the two together can make a good photograph. It is difficult to describe this thin line where matter ends and mind begins. - Robert Frank - 1962, World History of Photography by Naomi Rosenblum , ISBN: 0789209462 , Page: 516
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When people look at my pictures I want them to feel the way they do when they want to read a line of a poem twice. - Robert Frank - LIFE (26 November 1951), p. 21
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Well...you know, tomorrow I might answer the question differently. But I think it means that I would like to talk or show things that I really know about. It would be more truthful to talk about people that I know very well. For instance, I wouldn't go to Indonesia and photograph people or whatever. Not today, at least. - Robert Frank - On the question: "What do you mean by that word, "truth"?"

Black and white are the colours of photography. - Robert Frank - "What digital camera" November 2012, (PDEF version), p. 14

It’s not the decisive moment. It’s not the beginning or end. It’s the middle. It’s more like a question. - Robert Frank

I’m always looking outside, trying to look inside. Trying to say something that is true. But maybe nothing is really true. Except what’s out there. And what’s out there is always changing. - Robert Frank

I envy [my wife’s] freedom to sit down in front of a blank page with no machine to get in the way. That is freedom. Photography is not freedom. - Robert Frank

The kind of photography I did is gone. It’s old. There’s no point in it anymore for me, and I get no satisfaction from trying to do it. There are too many pictures now. It’s overwhelming. A flood of images that passes by, and says, “Why should we remember anything?” There is too much to remember now, too much to take in. - Robert Frank

The truth is somewhere between the documentary and the fictional, and that is what I try to show. What is real one moment has become imaginary the next. You believe what you see now, and the next second you don’t anymore. - Robert Frank

[Taking photographs is] almost embarrassing, everyone does it, after all. And everyone has the pictures in their head already anyway, all more or less the same. - Robert Frank

People want to know so much now. All the time, this wanting to know. Where does it lead? Nowhere. - Robert Frank

I hate to be photographed. I can’t stand to be pinned in front of a camera. I do that to people. I don’t like it done to me. - Robert Frank

I speak of things that are... everywhere—easily found, not easily selected and interpreted... a town at night, a parking lot, a supermarket, a highway... advertising, neon lights, the faces of the leaders and the faces of the followers, gas tanks and post offices and backyards. - Robert Frank

It’s nice how film survives. It’s not the way photographs are. It’s still alive. A photograph is just a memory. - Robert Frank

Of all the photographs in The Americans, I think there were only two or three photographs where I did talk to the person, but most of the time I was completely silent, walking through the landscape, through the city, and photographing and turning away. Well, that is my temperament, to be silent, just looking on... What I liked about photography was precisely this: that I could walk away and I could be silent and it was done very quickly and there was no direct involvement. - Robert Frank

[After The Americans] I put my Leica in a cupboard. Enough of lying in wait, pursuing, sometimes catching the essence of black and white, the knowledge of where God is. - Robert Frank

I was [making photographs] fast. Hurry! Hurry! Life goes fast. - Robert Frank

If all moments are recorded, then nothing is beautiful and maybe photography isn’t an art anymore. Maybe it never was. - Robert Frank

When someone becomes aware of the camera, it becomes a different picture. - Robert Frank

I think I always had a cold eye. I always saw things realistically. But, it’s also easier to show the darkness than the joy of life. Life is not beautiful all the time. Life can be good, then you lie down, and stare up at the ceiling, and the sadness falls on you. Things move on, time passes, people go away, and sometimes they don’t come back. - Robert Frank

The eye should learn to listen before it looks. - Robert Frank

I guess I got where I wanted to get, but it didn’t turn out to be the place I hoped it would be. I’m an outsider, still. - Robert Frank

I had never traveled through the country. I saw something that was hidden and threatening. It is important to see what is invisible to others. I felt no tenderness. - Robert Frank

Photographs immediately make everything old. - Robert Frank

I don’t ever think that I have gone far enough. I would like to reveal more... to push further... to show with more knowledge of what I photograph. To get people to trust me more in the way that I photograph them... - Robert Frank

I prefer to work on the edge, not the middle of the road. I am looking for chaos. - Robert Frank

I am a hunter, I hunt for pictures. I’m not a verbal man. I have nothing to reveal. It’s all in the work, I hope. - Robert Frank

Photography can reveal so much. It’s the invasion of the privacy of the people. I felt like a detective or a spy. Yes! Often I had uncomfortable moments. Nobody gave me a hard time because I had a talent for not being noticed. - Robert Frank

The beginning—full of joy—energy for intuition. I learned to treat intuition as a trusted friend… on the road and inside me and in the darkroom. - Robert Frank

Mass production of uninspired photojournalism and photography without thought becomes anonymous merchandise. The air becomes infected with the ‘smell’ of photography. If the photographer wants to be an artist, his thoughts cannot be developed overnight at the corner drugstore. - Robert Frank

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 the 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 post offices and backyards... - Robert Frank - Guggenheim grant application, 1954.

There are too many images, too many cameras now. We’re all being watched. It gets sillier and sillier. As if all action is meaningful. - Robert Frank

I love mistakes in photography. Sometimes they work. - Robert Frank

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