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Looking In: Robert Frank

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by Joann Jovinelly (subscribe)
I'm a freelance writer/photographer living in the East Village neighborhood of New York City.
More than just inspirational, the Metropolitan Museum of Art's exhibit, "Looking In: Robert Frank's The Americans," tells the story of an innocent, younger America. Based on the book of the same name, Frank, a Swiss émigré, shot the series of 83 images while traveling across the country in the 1950s.

Armed with only a Leica, Frank drove in a beat-up Ford to parades, community meetings, conventions, and other places where groups might gather to discuss the issues of the day. What resulted are honest portraits—people grouped in a trolley in New Orleans, a crowd assembled at a meeting of the Democratic Convention in Chicago, two women watching a parade from their apartment windows in New Jersey—all images of everyday Americans seized in an instant.

The images are sparse and without trickery. Frank simply acted as a reporter and documented the world as he saw it, forever capturing America at its peak of naivety and optimism. As a whole, the show speaks to us as a visual documentary of the literary Beat Movement and Jack Kerouac himself wrote the introduction to the original Grove Press edition of Frank's book. Kerouac also starred in Frank's short film "Pull My Daisy," the first of many for the photographer-turned-experimental filmmaker.

Now on view for the first time in New York, people may see the oversized images as they were meant to be seen—they are hung in the same order as they appeared in the book—along with Frank's original contact sheets, earlier photos taken in Europe and Peru, and some short films.

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Why? Because sometimes you have to stop and pay attention.
When: Now through January 3, 2010
Where: The Metropolitan Museum of Art
Cost: $20 Suggested Donation
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