Robert Frank, ‘Exile on Main St.’ Photographer, Dies
According to The New York Times, Frank died yesterday at Inverness Consolidated Memorial Hospital in Inverness, on Cape Breton Island in Nova Scotia, Canada, where he maintained a summer home.
The cause of death was not disclosed.
Born in Zurich in 1924, Frank studied graphic design and photography and, in the years following World War II, moved to New York and began shooting for various major magazines and traveling the world with his camera to build his portfolio. He then focused his attention on his adopted country, driving across the U.S. and taking an estimated 27,000 pictures. The result was his most famous work, the 1958 collection The Americans.
The book's 83 photographs, featured, as Charlie LeDuff wrote in Vanity Fair, "snaps of old angry white men, young angry black men, severe disapproving southern ladies, Indians in saloons, he/shes in New York alleyways, alienation on the assembly line, segregation south of the Mason-Dixon line, bitterness, dissipation, discontent” -- a far cry from the optimism frequently associated with much of the U.S. in the '50s.
In his introduction to the American edition of the book, which was published a year later, Jack Kerouac wrote that Frank's photographs had defined "that crazy feeling in America when the sun is hot and music comes out of the jukebox or from a nearby funeral" and that he did it "with agility, mystery, genius, sadness, and strange secrecy of a shadow ... that have never been seen before on film.”
Frank's work drew the attention of the Rolling Stones, who hired Frank, who by this point had branched out into filmmaking, to take similar pictures for the cover of their dark, druggy 1972 masterpiece Exile on Main St., and make a documentary of their tour that year.
The result, Cocksucker Blues, chronicled the group at its most decadent, with sex and drug use rampant; the band sued to stop its release for fear of commercial repercussions. By 1977, Frank and the Stones agreed the film could be screened only with Frank present, and never more than four times a year.
Even though he continued to work, Frank mostly retreated from public life after the 1974 death of his daughter Andrea. He returned to the music world to later direct videos for New Order's "Run" in 1989 and Patti Smith's "Summer Cannibals" in 1996.