I recently watched Don’t Blink, a fascinating documentary on the life and work of photographer Robert Frank. Now 92, Frank is considered, by many, one of the greatest living photographers—and seeing this documentary reminded me that his ground-breaking photographs from The Americans are still relevant, nearly sixty years after publication.
It occurs to me now watching Don’t Blink that it is the emotional impact of his work that makes it special. His documentary photos from the 50s seem timeless, especially since the same social and racial issues he exposed then are still seen today.
Robert Frank was one of my earliest influences when I first discovered photography. I was struck by his photos’ emotional impact, their grittiness, their raw power.
In Don’t Blink, Frank is asked, “What makes a picture good?” He replies, “Mostly I get people when they are not aware of the camera. And usually the first picture was the best one. Once someone is aware of the camera it becomes a different picture; people change.” For him, art is a spontaneous and free-flowing process. It’s something we can apply in today’s digital world, where imaging making has become more glossy and contrived. It makes me want to take photos with my gut—pictures that have emotional impact.
If you have not seen Don’t Blink, TVO (TVOntario) is streaming the film for free until July 9 at the link below. I highly recommend it.
Dundas and Victoria, Toronto, 1981 is from the series: Toronto Days