Robert Frank, the Swiss-American photographer who rose to fame for the unflinching gaze he fixed on American society, has died at 94. He passed away on Monday on Cape Breton Island in Nova Scotia, confirmed Peter MacGill, whose Pace-MacGill Gallery has represented Frank since 1983.
Frank was born in Switzerland in 1924 and immigrated to America at age 23, working under Harper’s Bazaar art director Alexey Brodovitch in New York before traveling extensively through South America. Frank then split his time between New York and Europe, putting together his own hand-bound photography books.
In 1955, Frank received a John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Fellowship to photograph his way across the United States for nine months. Instead of capturing historical sites and tourist attractions, Frank honed in on the small moments that made up the fabric of American life. His efforts turned into The Americans, a genre-defining photography book published in the U.S. in 1959, with an introduction from Jack Kerouac. The groundbreaking sense of connection that Frank established in The Americans is celebrated to this day; in 1994, the New York Times magazine called the book “a portrait by an outsider identifying to his fingertips with other outsiders.”
Frank began to explore avant-garde filmmaking following the success of The Americans, collaborating with everyone from Kerouac to Allen Ginsberg and Peter Orlovsky. In later years, Frank vacillated between photography and filmmaking, earning solo exhibitions at the National Gallery of Art and the Tate Modern. Frank’s children, Andrea and Pablo, died in 1974 and 1994, respectively. He divorced his first wife, the artist now known as Mary Frank, in 1969, and married sculptor June Leaf two years later. He lived in Nova Scotia and New York City.
Originally Appeared on Vogue