Frank, Robert - Les Americains, 1958, Cover fl
The seminal photography book of the 20th century. Almost continuously in print since it’s inauspicious birth in this original French edition. I have this copy, bought on ebay quite a few years ago from a nice man in Paris whose father knew Robert Delpire.
This is one book that I find I can endlessly revisit and get more from the images each time. It evokes an era in America that I missed, but is characterised by a sense of alienation in contrast to the American dream, the story that Americans tell themselves about the wonderful lives and country they have, represented often in Franks images by the stars and stripes flag. The images, mostly of ordinary people, but also politicians and the wealthy, show the whole gamut of American life. But what caused the stir was that they are not just about that, but framed and composed in ways that broke all the studied rules about how to make “good” photographs. The strong sequencing tells a story about both America and about Robert Frank.
Unusually for a photobook it has an illustration on the cover, rather than a photograph – but so of course does Cartier-Bresson’s “Images a la Sauvette”. The French first edition includes texts about America by Simone de Beauvoir, Bernard Iddings Bell, John Brown, Omar N. Bradley, Erskine Caldwell, John Dos Passos, William Faulkner, Henry Miller, Claude Roy, John Steinbeck, Walt Whitman and Richard Wright, which were left out of the 1959 US edition, though it does have the wonderful Jack Kerouac introduction.
Robert Delpire, Paris
Hardback with illustrated paper cover with design by Saul Steinberg