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American Witness

The Art and Life of Robert Frank

By R J Smith, By RJ Smith

A frumpy, remote, melancholy, and seemingly unknowable man, Robert Frank found himself at the red-hot social center of bohemian New York in the '50s and '60s after emigrating from Switzerland in 1947. He enjoyed close friendships with Jack Kerouac, Allen Ginsberg, and Peter Orlovsky as well as photographer Walker Evans, writer James Agee, and painters Alice Neel and Larry Rivers.

In the mid-'50s, Frank and his family took a long road trip across America where he took 27,000 photographs, 83 of which would be collected in The Americans, his best-known work. At first harshly criticized for its bleak portrait of a segregated America, the collection gradually grew to be recognized as a transformative artistic document of the era.

American Witness is a compelling portrait of a great artist and his times and the seismic impact he had upon them.
R.J. Smith has been a senior editor at Los Angeles Magazine, a contributor to Blender, a columnist for The Village Voice, a staff writer for Spin, and has written for GQ, New York Times Magazine, Elle, and Men's Vogue. His book The One: The Life and Music of James Brown was among the New York Times' "100 Notable Books of 2012." Smith lives with his wife and daughter in Cincinnati, Ohio.
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