Robert Frank doesn't go to Danny and Alan Feirstein's bar mitzvah in the San Fernando Valley. If he had, I am sure he would have made some pretty good pictures, he did before the American pictures, and he continued to do so every time he picked up a camera. Instead, on the 4th of July he makes a picture in upstate New York that will be in The Americans. The big flag coming down from heaven picture.
(For reasons unknown, the new edition—like some of the earlier ones—states "All photographs taken 1955/56." But beside this 1954 photo, one from '57 is also in all editions).
In the fall he applies for a Guggenheim. Robert Oppenheimer loses his security clearance.
1955: Robert Frank gets his Guggenheim and photographs at the Ford plant in Dearborn. The Soviet Union produces its first true "fusion" or H-bomb. Allen Ginsberg reads Howl in public in San Francisco. Frank is on the road to Florida and Houston. I, along with the rest of America's children, practice duck and cover.
1957: Viking Press publishes Jack Kerouac's On The Road. (Fifty years later, On The Road is a staple of high school English teachers trying to relate.) The Americans remains a rock in the road, a lump too big for academia to swallow—show this book to a workingman or woman and if they have an ounce of native wit, they will get it. All the academics can do is praise it, parse it, pale before it. Frank's grand synthesis of Atget, Walker Evans, and Cartier-Bresson needs nothing other than the lone viewer holding the book in their lap.
1958: The year of my Bar Mitzvah. The year the of first publication of The Americans, more precisely, the year in which Robert Delpire publishes Les Americains in France. In January, Edward Weston dies and Jerry Lee Lewis's 'Great Balls of Fire' tops the charts. The U.S. Camera Annual publishes what is an odd insert: thirty-three American photographs by Frank, with an introduction by Walker Evans.