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November 27 , 2008

Awakening the Eye

Robert Frank's American Cinema


Until now, celebrated photographer Robert Frank’s daring and unconventional work as a filmmaker has not been awarded the critical notice it deserves. In this timely volume, George Kouvaros surveys Frank’s films and videos and places them in the larger context of experimentation in American art and literature since World War II.

Born in 1924, Frank emigrated from Switzerland to the United States in 1947 and quickly made his mark as a photojournalist. A 1955 Guggenheim Foundation fellowship allowed him to travel across the country, photographing aspects of American life that had previously received little attention. The resulting book, The Americans, with an Introduction by Jack Kerouac, is generally considered a landmark in the history of postwar photography. During the same period, Frank befriended other artists and writers, among them Allen Ginsberg, Peter Orlovsky, and Gregory Corso, all of whom are featured in his first film, Pull My Daisy, which is narrated by Kerouac. This film set the terms for a new era of experimental filmmaking.

By examining Frank’s films and videos, including Pull My Daisy, Me and My Brother, and Cocksucker Blues, in the framework of his more widely recognized photographic achievements, Kouvaros develops a model of cross-media history in which photography, film, and video are complicit in the search for fresh forms of visual expression. Awakening the Eye is an insightful, compelling, and, at times, moving account of Frank’s determination to forge a personal connection between the circumstances of his life and the media in which he works.

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