1957-58 I was in the 73rd Bomber Wing, Strategic Air Command at Ramy Air Force Base, Puerto Rico, flying around with a hydrogen bomb, piloted by alcoholic re-treads from World War II. I was tail gunner and the weather gunner on our crew was Amiri Baraka. He had somehow commandeered the base library at night and we could order books and music. We holed up in the library at night, listening to jazz and reading literature. I didn't have the slightest idea where my life was going. I was 21 and good at nothing. Somehow the French edition of The Americans appeared (maybe divine intervention) and I saw something I had never seen before. All my feelings were there on paper and I wanted to learn how to do that. Jim Mitchell (a fine photographer who's still shooting up California somewhere) took me to the base store and I bought a Leica with a 35 mm. lens ($125). I've been taking pictures every day ever since. My gratitude to Robert Frank is boundless.
I've had the good fortune to get to know Robert a little bit and he's just like his pictures: intense, serious, and funny.
The only down side from my point of view is that because The Americans and Robert have become mythic, he is very underrated as a filmmaker. I feel that his films are extremely important, although difficult. The Rolling Stone film (Cocksucker Blues) is a real apocalyptic vision done with the most economical of means.