Tate Modern Level 4
28 October 2004 – 23 January 2005
The first monographic exhibition of the work of one of the world’s most important living photographers, Robert Frank, will be shown at Tate Modern this autumn. The exhibition will include more than one hundred and fifty black-and-white photographs never before displayed outside the USA. It also marks the eightieth birthday of the artist.
Robert Frank was born in Zurich, Switzerland in 1924 where he worked in the studios of various Swiss photographers and film makers. He emigrated to New York City in 1947 where his photo book, 40 Fotos, earned him a job with Harper’s Bazaar. In 1948 he travelled to Peru and Bolivia and produced his second hand-made volume, Peru (1949). Later, he went to London (1951 and early in 1952) where he created a portrait in images of the city following World War II. In 1953 his travels took him to Wales, to the town of Carequ, where he made a photographic story about a mining community, focusing on the miner Ben James and his family. These distinct bodies of work, and the photographs in his third photo book, Black White and Things 1952, demonstrate Frank’s early interest in combining realism with the narrative potential of photographic sequencing, capturing the poetic qualities of everyday life.
In 1958 Frank’s first published photo book The Americans was produced to great critical acclaim but after its publication Frank abandoned traditional photography and concentrated on making films. The works Pull My Daisy 1960 and Conversations in Vermont 1969, pioneered a revolutionary approach to filmmaking that combined autobiography, poetry, and emotion with gritty realism. He returned to photography in the 1970s to make complex constructions, containing multiple prints in black-and-white and colour, as well as stills from films and videos. Frank’s most recent pictures examine the world from the inside out, exploring through metaphor the processes of looking, feeling, thinking, and ageing.
In 1994, Robert Frank was the first living artist to be given a retrospective at the National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C. His huge influence on the development of post-war photography was recognised in 1996 by the presentation of the Hasselblad Award, one of the most prestigious photography prizes.
Robert Frank: Storylines will include images from Peru 1949, London 1951–52, Wales 1953 and Black White and Things 1952, the four groundbreaking series of photographs of everyday life which were to change the language of post-war photography. The filmic and narrative aspects of these works will be explored by their juxtaposition with his important film, Conversations in Vermont 1969, and with his previously unseen series of photographs, Stories 2002. The exhibition also includes works from The Americans including photographs taken while he was working on the project which have never been seen before.
Robert Frank is curated by Vicente Todolí, Director of Tate Modern, with advice from Philip Brookman, Senior Curator of Photography and Media Arts at the Corcoran Gallery of Art. Philip Brookman curated Robert Frank: London/Wales which was presented at the Corcoran Gallery of Art, Washington, DC from May 10 – July 14, 2003. Robert Frank: London/Wales will be incorporated into the exhibition at Tate Modern.