On Thursday afternoon, I, along with over 800 others, ended up in the nation’s capitol for a rare program with photographer Robert Frank and the National Gallery’s curator of photographs, Sarah Greenough. Frank rarely makes public appearances, so it was an opportunity to listen and learn first hand about his photographic work, which currently is the subject of the fine exhibition Looking In: Robert Frank’s The Americans. While discussing several iconic images from his oeuvre, Frank humbly remarked, “It was a very good day for photography.”
In their hour-long conversation, Greenough and Frank discussed his photography, influences (Bill Brandt and Walker Evans in particular), his love of America, and, most notably for me, a 1955 trip to Detroit to photograph what Frank referred to as “God’s Factory” – the Ford Motor Company’s River Rouge Plant in Dearborn, Michigan. For Frank, the automobile was an important part of the American dream, and he saw it everywhere. He thought it would be a good idea to see the place where cars were made and photographed at the factory for two or three days. It was difficult but worth it. The images were used in a number of his publications over the years including The Americans.
In March 2010, the DIA will open an exhibition of Robert’s Detroit work from 1955. It will be the first time these photographs will be on view to the public and an opportunity to see Detroit and the famous Ford factory the way Robert Frank experienced it at mid century.