Robert Frank, Photography Pioneer and Rolling Stones Collaborator, Dead at 94
Sept. 10, 2019
Robert Frank, the Swiss artist who shaped American photography and filmmaking in the 20th Century, died yesterday (September 9) in Nova Scotia, Canada, The New York Times reports. The cause of death has not yet been disclosed. He was 94.
Born in Switzerland, Robert Frank moved to New York aged 23. In the mid-’50s, he began work on The Americans , his landmark book of black and white photographs documenting Americans he encountered on cross-country road trips. The images, cinematic but unglamorous, gradually influenced documentary photography and, eventually, American culture at large. Jack Kerouac wrote the foreword for the American edition and, in 1959, narrated “Pull My Daisy,” Frank’s debut film.
A handful of images from The Americans featured on the cover of the Rolling Stones’ 1972 album Exile on Main Street; another of Frank’s works, “Tattoo Parlour,” fills the rest of the cover. After Frank shot portraits for the album inlay, Mick Jagger hired him to make a feature documentary about the band.
The result, Cocksucker Blues , proved controversial: The band decided its candid scenes of sex and drug use could be damaging or incriminating, and blocked its release. (Public showings remain strictly monitored.) Frank continued to work with musicians, shooting videos for artists including Patti Smith. In 2015, Laura Israel’s decades-in-the-making documentary Don’t Blink – Robert Frank was released in cinemas.
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