PRINT April 1981

From Walker Evans to Robert Frank: A Legacy Received Embraced and Transformed

IN 1959, GROVE PRESS PUBLISHED The Americans, by Robert Frank. Within a short time this book was recognized, at least by other photographers, as a masterpiece. Because of the force of his vision, and because he gave up the still camera for filmmaking only a few years after the publication of his book, Frank came to be regarded as a kind of Rimbaud of photography, an anarchic poet who, with the speed and brilliance of a comet, had suddenly appeared, flared and then was lost to sight. That Frank’s great book might have owed something to—in fact, might even have been born of—his knowledge and love of another great body of photographic work appears to have been unimaginable to those who might have considered the idea. The harsh, spontaneous grace of his pictures seemed to deny the possibility of precedence.

Frank has said, however, that the photographs of Walker Evans influenced his work, a

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