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The Americans

4.17  ·  Rating details ·  12,326 ratings  ·  176 reviews
Introduction by Jack Kerouac. There is no question that Robert Frank's The Americans is the most famous and influential photography book ever published. It was 1959 when the book first came out: a series of deceptively simple photographs that Frank took on a trip through America in '55 and '56, pictures of normal people, everyday scenes: lunch counters, bus depots, cars, a ...more
Hardcover, 180 pages
Published February 1st 1998 by Scalo Publishers (first published 1958)
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Average rating 4.17  · 
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 ·  12,326 ratings  ·  176 reviews

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Jan 02, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2015, recs
First published in 1959, The Americans captures the nation at its plainest moments. Following Walker Evans, the FSA photographer who documented the Great Depression's effects upon small town life, Robert Frank took interest in the painfully ordinary: his collection consists of several black-and-white photographs of mundane scenes, bleak landscapes, and harsh portraits. Frank's strenuous emphasis upon the simple makes each of his photos appear a bit lackluster when viewed individually, while it a ...more
Jun 09, 2009 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition

This is one of my favorite pics from Robert Frank's collection of photos in his classic "The Americans." It's a beautiful chronicle of America in 1955-1956. It's obvious that Frank liked capturing faces, expressions, moods. The introduction was written by Jack Kerouac, where he romanticizes about the American road, as seen through Frank's lens. There are so many great pics, "Drug store-Detroit" being another of my favorites. The one above is titled, "Barber shop through screen door - McClell
Sep 21, 2010 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
To quote Kerouac from his intro, "To Robert Frank I now give this message: You got eyes."
These are wonderful timeless images. A classic work to be savored.
Ray LaManna
Sep 17, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: art-photography
As a homage to Robert Frank, who died last week at age 94 I took down this seminal book of photographs which he took on a cross country road trip in 1955-1956. The photos still affect us over 60 years later. Frank showed the dark underbelly of America with its segregation, dead-end jobs and lives...but he also shows the glamour and joy of life in these black and white pictures.

This is a magnificent book which has influenced some of the most famous photographers of the 20th and 21st centuries.
robin friedman
Jul 28, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Looking In

In 1955 - 1956, Robert Frank (b. 1924), an American photographer born in Switzerland, restlessly crossed the United States several times by car to photograph people and places as he found them. He gradually culled through thousands of photographs to select 83 images for his book, "The Americans" published initially in Paris in 1958 and in the United States in 1959 by Grove Press. In its initial publication, "The Americans" sold only 600 copies and received negative reviews. Its stature
Hákon Gunnarsson
Sep 11, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: photography
I heard this morning that the photographer Robert Frank died two days ago, and that got me to look at this book. It is his most famous work. Though it was first published in 1958, I think it still stands up as a great book. He broke some technical “rules” such as chopping an arm of a man in one of the shots while leaving space on the other side of the woman he is with, there are photos that are slightly blurred because they are taken at such low shutter speeds, and people that feel they “need” 1 ...more
Nov 23, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: x2014-15-season
Excellent photographs by Frank; shitty, pompous, self-indulgent introduction by Kerouac.
Carolina de Goes
Jan 31, 2008 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: photo, documentary
Frank was Swiss and got a Guggenheim grant to go ona huge roadtrip and carry this out. The American people were all looking forward to the release of the book, they thought it'd be pretty-pretty and it'd suck up to them, but no! Out it came and people were offended by it. They were offended because the eye of the outsider saw things which the Americans (not the book, the people) did not want shown. Yes, 1950's hypocrisy in its most classic form.
Well, the world has become quite different and it s
Dec 16, 2011 rated it it was amazing
If Helen's face launched a thousand ships, and if the Velvet Underground record launched a million garage bands, certainly Robert Frank's dense monograph is the photographic equivalent.

Beautifully elegant images in a harsh, electrifying thematic vein.
Read through it, see into it, read it through, and try not to weep.
Joe Totterdell
“One day, quite some time ago, I happened on a photograph of Napoleon’s youngest brother, Jerome, taken in 1852. And I realized then, with an amazement I have not been able to lessen since: ‘I am looking at eyes that looked at the Emperor.’ Sometimes I would mention this amazement, but since no one seemed to share it, nor even to understand it (life consists of these little touches of solitude), I forgot about it.”—Roland Barthes, from Camera Lucida: Reflections on Photography

“Anybody doesnt lik
Nov 10, 2007 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: Americans
A stunning book that changed my views about what Photography can be. Leave it to a European to come to America in the 1950s and in 83 pictures perfectly expose our hypocrisy while respecting and celebrating us as individuals.

Also, for a book without words, it has a killer introduction by Jack Kerouac.

Robert Frank also filmed the documentary C*cksucker Blues, traveling with the Rolling Stones on their 1972 tour for "Exile on Main St." -- for which he also did the cover. Equal parts debauchery an
Kimmo Sinivuori
Mar 30, 2016 rated it it was amazing
"...,coast of blue Pacific starry night - nobone half-banana moons sloping in the tangled night sky, the torments of great formations in mist, the huddled invisible insect in the car racing onward, illuminate..." writes Jack Kerouac in the introduction to this classic book of photographs by Robert Frank. This would be a five star book for that Kerouac introduction only but combined with Frank's pictures it is priceless.
May 31, 2014 rated it really liked it
It left me with a weird image of America and Americans!
Sneha Nanavati
Aug 06, 2020 rated it liked it
beautiful images leaving me with mixed emotions.
will write a long piece on favourite images (and not so fav pieces) soon.
Aug 31, 2020 added it
Shelves: photography
The majority of them wouldn't garner much more than a second glance today, but I can see why this collection of photos set the nation on edge when it came out. Unpretty, unposed, and unpolished. It showed the everyday as it was. He kicked opened the door (and shattered the hinges) for the rest of us.
Tim Scott
Mar 04, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: photography
The images in this book either didn't move me or left me so in love with the composition and infected story within its frame. As a whole, each image bleeds spontaneity and common appreciation of the details of living.
Oct 19, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
What intrigued me: I read an article in Time (I think? I was at a doctor's office and my Google-fu fails me) about elderly artists who are still active in the art community. Robert Frank was on the list. They referenced The Americans in the article and I wanted to take a look.

What I liked: There were some truly striking pictures, but this is by far my favorite:

What I didn't like: I didn't connect with all of the photographs, but that is of little consequence.

Favorite quote: “What a poem this i
Thomas Thorstensson
Dec 08, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: photography
Robert Frank's first mission is to tell the story of the americans, and he does so by taking his photography into just about every environment and social group he can find. He is everywhere, and like Bresson, his focus is not always on the technically perfect shot, but on the story, the feeling, the emotion. The americans come together, come apart, as we turn these pages. The introduction by Jack Kerouac echoes this photographic style, as he 'em dashes' out his many thoughts and impressions of A ...more
Beautiful images of the 50s in America and Jack Kerouac was the best person to write the introduction for this book. Many times I had On the road in mind while looking at these photographs.

Very interesting perspectives of breaking the rules and focusing more on emotion, as opposed to Henri Cartier-Bresson's preferences for geometry. There's a lot to learn here.

I only wish I had this book in a larger format to see the photographs bigger. I had to settle with whatever edition I found.
Trey Piepmeier
Jun 17, 2016 rated it it was ok
There must be some historical context here that I'm missing, but I don't think very much of these photos. Some of them are quite interesting, but perhaps because Robert Frank established this style of "street(?)" photography means that it seems ordinary, but actually was groundbreaking. I have no idea if that's the case. And the drivel introduction by Kerouac didn't help my understanding one bit. Actually, I couldn't get through the introduction. It was way too hip for me.

Maybe I'll look back on
Feb 04, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: art-inspiration
An all-time favorite book featuring the face of America from small towns to cities. Day and night. Years ago SFMOMA featured a Robert Frank exhibition with many of these photos, plus his the letters he wrote to friends and to get grants. Best of all was matching the photographer's notes on why certain images were selected (or not) as part of the story of America he wanted to tell with the image itself.
May 02, 2008 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: photobooks
I wrote a really long review of this here:

I'm not sure how I feel about "reading" a photobook. As an activity, it should be called something else.
Jan 03, 2016 rated it really liked it
Kerouac wrote a wandering introduction (for better or worse), but really nailed Frank's work here in this single statement: "[Frank] sucked a sad poem right out of America onto film." I especially loved on the jukeboxes that found their way into Frank's framing of his travels across the country.
Apr 30, 2010 rated it it was amazing
I'd say skip the Kerouac intro and let the pictures speak for themselves...some pretty amazing snapshots of America from the 1950s.
Jan 27, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Aug 04, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Iconic look at mid-century America.
Jan 11, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: classic, photo
Studied this in college - one of the classics of photographic literature.
Jan 10, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Robert Frank is a fucking master. This is life, this is real, this is humanity with pimples, warts, and a ribbon.
David Rothwell
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Dec 13, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Having thumbed through this book in libraries, on occasion, over the last 20 years, I never really had much interest in Robert Frank. During the same 20 year period, mentions of photography or of monographs frequently hearkened back to this book by Robert Frank. I suspected it was over-rated, frankly. After seeing one-too-many references to the book recently, I took the time to sit down with it and really look at the work. Front to back, no distractions, back and forth, seeing. And it's good. I ...more
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Robert Frank was a photographer and filmmaker.

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