Robert FRANK

Switzerland born 1924

  • emigrated to United States 1947

Pablo 1959 Materials & Technique: photographs, gelatin silver photograph

Dimensions: printed image 20.8 h x 31.0 w cm sheet 27.0 h x 35.4 w cm
Acknowledgement: Purchased 1980
Accession No: NGA 80.4284
  • Frank set out on a two-year road trip across the States in 1955. The images he made of race and class divisions, poverty, alienated youth and loneliness expose America’s dark soul. Others, such as this haunting image of his son, Pablo, were more personal. A selection appeared in The Americans, published in Paris in 1958 and in the States the following year. Many saw it as a bitter indictment of the American Dream, others saw an evocative, melancholic vision of humanity that is deeply moving. As Jack Kerouac commented in his introduction to the American edition, Frank ‘sucked a sad, sweet, poem out of America’.

    Text © National Gallery of Australia, Canberra

  • Frank had a formal photographic apprenticeship in Switzerland in the early 1940s. Because he knew the rules, he also knew how to break them. Frank often worked in low light conditions, resulting in images that privilege grain and blur. Using a 35mm Leica camera, which allows a photographer to work unobserved, Frank exploited the qualities of the film, lenses and paper available to him to heighten the emotional range of his pictures. Frank’s images of his family, here his son Pablo aged eight, are arguably some of his most moving.

    Text © National Gallery of Australia, Canberra