Les Américains. Photographs by Robert Frank. Texts by numerous authors edited by Alain Bosquet. Encyclopedie Essentielle/Robert Delpire, Paris, 1958. 174 pp. Oblong octavo. Glazed paper over boards. Cover design by Saul Steinberg. No dust jacket as issued. Numerous gravure reproductions. |
"...paved the way for three decades of photographs exploring the personal poetics of lived experience. Many memorable photobooks have been derived from this mass of material. None has been more memorable, more influential, nor more fully realized than Franks's masterpiece."--Martin Parr and Gerry Badger, The Photobook: A History, Vol. 1 Unlike the Grove Press edition published the following year, in legendary publisher Robert Delpire's first French edition--with its politically charged texts printed on pages facing the photos--Frank's acerbic documentary of post-war American life comes across more as a biting exposé of the ennui and provincialism lurking beneath the surface than as a "sad poem sucked out of America," in Kerouac's famous words.
In France, the anti-American tone of the book was unambiguous: The photographs were accompanied text & quotations collected by critic Alain Bosquet and presented under headings such as, 'The Civil War Continues,' 'Isolationism,' 'An Incorrigible Idealism,' 'Uniformity.' 'The Intellectual is Suspect,' 'Religion or Religiosity,' and 'The Almighty Dollar.' Many of the same categories that sociologists and writers critical of the 1950s status quo are beginning to explore. With the juxtaposition of text and image on facing pages, the effect is far more documentary than in the 1st American version of a year later. It is expose; when it hit American shores, it became a pose with an entirely new world view attached.
Near Fine+; back strip and boards slightly tanned; tiny shallow split (1/2") to joint at base of spine.