Documentary photographer Robert Frank dies aged 94

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Robert Frank, the hugely influential documentary photographer who captured a generation, has died. He was 94.

Best known for his seminal book, The Americans, Frank's intimate style and raw black and white images continue to be the blueprint for documentary photography today.

As well as a photographer, Frank was also a prolific filmmaker, and created more than 30 movies and videos, including working closely with rock band The Rolling Stones. 

Born in Switzerland, Frank emigrated to New York at the age of 23. 

In 1955, after securing a Guggenheim Fellowship, he began the two-year project which would eventually become his masterwork. Travelling across the United States and photographing all strata of its society with his trusty Leica 35mm camera, the 83 black-and-white images culled from a collection of more than 28,000 pictures became The Americans

His focus was on figures from the overlooked margins of American life – from teenagers and factory workers to bikers. 

Famously, Popular Photography magazine complained about the images, in particular their “meaningless blur, grain, muddy exposures, drunken horizons, and general sloppiness.”

Mr. Frank, the magazine said, was “a joyless man who hates the country of his adoption.”

Despite the bad press, the book eventually sold well, helped in part by an introduction by Jack Kerouac. In time, it would become a seminal text.

"Robert Frank changed the way we see," Mark Lubell, executive director of the International Centre of Photography, told The Associated Press on Tuesday.

"When The Americans came out, America was on the rise. America had won the war. But he saw something different, things that were not as rosy a picture as Life magazine might have had it."

He would later return to photography, but would forever be defined by his work from the 1950s.

 “My mother asked me, ‘Why do you always take pictures of poor people?’ Frank told the New York Times. “It wasn’t true, but my sympathies were with people who struggled. There was also my mistrust of people who made the rules.”

“The kind of photography I did is gone. It’s old,” Frank told the Guardian in an interview in 2004. “There’s no point in it any more for me, and I get no satisfaction from trying to do it. There are too many pictures now. It’s overwhelming.”

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