Photography Masters - Richard Frank
Sunday Magazine

Photography Masters - Richard Frank

Siddharth S. Kumar

Siddharth S. Kumar

The initial years of Richard Frank were spent in commercial photography, fashion photography including freelance photojournalism for Life, Vogue, Look, Charm…But it was his 1959 book, The Americans, that pitchforked him into instant fame. This photo book was a masterpiece: here was a treatise which was at once stunning, poetic personal and real.

No wonder, Ed Ruscha, artist and photographer commented: “Seeing The Americans in a college bookshop was a stunning, ground-trembling experience for me. But I realized this man’s achievement could not be mined or imitated in any way, because he had already done it, sewn it up and gone home. What I was left with was the vapors of his talent. I had to make my own kind of art. But wow! The Americans”.

Trolley—New Orleans,” from “The Americans,” 1955. This photo conveys the social divide that was evident in post-war American society.

In general, Frank shocked photographers wedded to convention; and became the lodestar for a new generation of photographers, shaping the unfolding changes in contemporary photography.

During an exhibition of works, Frank in 2008, at the Washington’s National Gallery of Art, the curator Sarah Greenough, as quoted in The Guardian, had this to say …the photographs revealed a people who were plagued by racism, ill-served by their politicians, and also rendered increasingly numb by the rising culture of consumerism. But it’s also important to point out that he found new areas of beauty in those simple, overlooked corners of American life, she added.

Santa Fe, New Mexico, 1955, from Robert Frank’s The Americans, first published in 1958. The photograph places a deserted gas pump against a horizon which is a desert thereby giving an ominous and lonely mood.

In his later years, Richard Frank moved on to films, establishing himself as an avant-garde film maker.

He once said, “There are too many images, too many cameras now. We’re all being watched. It gets sillier and sillier. As if all action is meaningful. Nothing is really all that special. It’s just life. If all moments are recorded, then nothing is beautiful and maybe photography isn’t an art anymore. Maybe it never was”.

“City of London,” 1951. While the primary subject is the man on the left, the photo slowly leads the view through the street using people walking in that direction into the blown out horizon.


Siddharth Kumar, is the Co-Founder & Lead Photographer SIDART Photography, a professional photography venture focusing on weddings, portraiture and commercial photography. After an 8-year stint in an MNC, he decided to pursue his passion for photography and music. In 2019, he was awarded Certificate of Honorable Mention by International Photography Awards (IPA), Los Angeles. In 2014, he won the First Prize at the International Photography Competition organized by Mindshare Worldwide. He holds a Grade 8 Certificate in Piano Performance from Trinity College London.