Thursday, 9 February 2012

Cocksucker Blues:

I do not doubt but the majesty & beauty of the world, are latent in any iota of the world...
I do not doubt there is far more in trivialities, insects, vulgar persons, slaves, dwarfs, weeds, rejected refuse, than I have supposed...
Walt Whitman, Assurances, from Leaves of Grass

For his “tramp narrative for the automobile age”, The Americans, Robert Frank spent nine months on the road, existing off a Guggenheim grant, supported in part by his mentor Walker Evans, his young family in the back of the car. Clocking up 10,000 miles, over thirty states and 767 rolls of film, Frank was on a search for the American dream and like Evans and Whitman before him, he knew it existed in the everyday; “... the dream of grandeur, advertising, neon lights, the faces of the leaders and the faces of the followers, gas tanks and post offices and back yards.”

What resulted was a book that, much like Evans’ adoption of Walt Whitman’s modernist poems, actively mimics the canter of beat poetry and the frenetic rhythms of Jazz and the speed and excesses of modern city life. Frank once stated that he wanted his viewers to “feel the way they do when they want to read a line of a poem twice” and in The Americans he created the visual equivalent of Kerouac’s On The Road, and he knew it too: At a party in 1957 he begged Kerouac to write the introduction to the book, and he did: “...he roamed America and sucked a poem clean out of it, right on film, and here it is.” wrote Kerouac. Visually, the book is so clearly indebted to Evans that it is no surprise that Frank sought a literary equivalent to his images and, Frank found in Kerouac his Whitman, his Proust and his Don Quixote; forever leaning at windmills.

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