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Sunday at the Met: Robert Frank's The Americans
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PostPosted: Mon Nov 02, 2009 3:54 pm    Post subject: Sunday at the Met: Robert Frank's The Americans Reply with quote



Daughter and I went to the Metropolitan Art Museum yesterday - she had some homework on sculpture to do, and wanted to see The Americans and another show of contemporary photography.

The Robert Frank show is excellent - all images in the book The Americans shown in original prints, plus a wall of his 8x10 working copies, and several marked contact sheets. (I checked out the contacts - he had a pretty good hit rate on some rolls, while others yielded only one or two... and Frank wasn't hung up on film, I saw a Tri-X, Plus-X and Ilford high speed Pan.)

The original prints are so far beyond what we see in the books, magazines, or online. There's a density, a tactile quality, and tone galore. Frank isn't always technically perfect, as he's interested in the moment, the lining up of elements, or in irony or humor. Several of the images are iconic now, and his influence on photography in the last 50 years is obvious.

But the quality gap between the prints as shown, and the reproductions we all are familiar with, is very large.


http://www.metmuseum.org/special/se_event.asp?OccurrenceId={1FD57D4D-FE17-41FA-9025-E2667E36AD27}


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The contemporary show is calle Surface Tension. For me it served as a comment on the Frank show - how so often process and materials today are a large part of the work of art, ie. how I made it is more important/impressive than what I made. For example, and I quite liked this one, this guy had taken archive photos of minimalist sculpture from the Whitney (I think), and also collected dust from the vacuum cleaners at the Whitney (I think), and then used the dust to make 'drawings' of the original photos... and then photographed the dust drawings, and in the modern fashion blown these photos up huge, wall sized. This is an extreme of the 'japanese rice paper, platinum print' aesthetic. In Frank's time, of course, the photo papers were better, with all sorts of heavy (poisonous) elements that gave them that tangible presence. So perhaps this modern materials thing is a work-around modern homogenized and lean/clean materials?

http://www.metmuseum.org/special/se_event.asp?OccurrenceId={60D8DD72-9C68-4188-91DA-F84E7681F4EB}


PostPosted: Mon Nov 02, 2009 4:48 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Hi Nester,

thanks for shwoing. I wish I could make a short trip to NY to go and see the exhibition. I could also visit some of my Chinese relatives there and have good food, but - alas!- I have to make money here.

Thomas


Last edited by madamasu on Tue Nov 03, 2009 7:46 am; edited 1 time in total


PostPosted: Mon Nov 02, 2009 10:11 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

With luck this might end up in Europe sometime... maybe not.



I read a bit more - the ruthless selection of image is something *some* of us (ahem, me) don't do so well. My daughter however gets it, she has no problem winnowing down to the one or two...

Frank was on the road for about 1 year in '55-56. When he got back to NYC, he had more than 760 rolls to develop, or around 27,000 photos. Then look at the contact sheets... then he made about 1000 of those 8x10 working prints. He'd have them tacked to his walls and piled on the floor. He narrowed these down to 83 photographs for the book.

That's about 1/3 of 1%.

We know he used a Leica, but not which lenses for which shots, or whether he in fact changed lenses... When I looked at the contacts, there was some exposure variation, but nearly always this was due to the light available - ie. he selected exposures based on subjective evaluation of lighting conditions. If the scene is dark, the photo is also dark. (Metering blindly will tend to give you contact sheets where everyting's averaging towards the neutral grey card.)

When there's an exhibition of vintage photos from the golden era(s), it really is worth while to go see them, to appreciate what sort of objects these truly were.


PostPosted: Mon Jan 11, 2010 6:57 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

i wish that show had been available when i was there in january of 2009.