Robert Frank: Books and Films, 1947-2017

Robert Frank (b. 1924, Zurich) is one of the pre-eminent figures of twentieth-century photography. With his innovative approach to technique and subject matter and through his personal viewpoint, Frank has revolutionized documentary photography and redefined the aesthetics of the still and moving image. Robert Frank: Books and Films, 1947–2017 is not a retrospective, but a volatile experience focusing on Frank’s output as a book- and filmmaker. The exhibition presents for the first time his complete restored films.

Conceived by Robert Frank and Gerhard Steidl, the exhibition is as bold, accessible and humble as Frank’s work itself, and has been designed to enable particularly younger generations to engage with his practice. Frank’s films and photobooks are placed in the overarching context of his photographs, which are presented in an immediate and straightforward way: printed in sequences of four to five on up to three-meter-long paper banners that are installed directly onto the wall without frames. The exhibition spans Frank’s entire artistic career, from 1947 until now.

When Frank left Switzerland for New York City in 1947, he brought with him a handmade book of photographs as his professional portfolio. It was his first exploration into the ways in which the juxtaposition of photographs could convey meaning. Since then the photobook has become one of his preferred media. Without words, narrative or explanatory captions, the power of his sequences lies in the combined presence of his images. The exhibition presents 24 books, including Portfolio (1947), Peru (1948), Black White and Things (1952), his highly celebrated The Americans (1958 and 1959), and his most recent book Was haben wir gesehen / What we have seen (2016).

Frank’s masterful handling of sequencing images makes his turn to filmmaking in the late 1950s a logical progression: “A decision: I put my Leica in a cupboard. Enough of lying in wait, pursuing, sometimes catching the essence of the black and the white, the knowledge where God is. I make films. Now I speak to the people in my viewfinder. Not simple and not especially successful.” Frank has since produced films and videos between the boundaries of documentary and fiction. The exhibition presents for the first time after years of restoration Frank's filmic output, he has produced since 1959, including Pull My Daisy (1959), Me and My Brother (1968), and The Tunnel (2005).

Robert Frank: Books and Films, 1947–2017 at UC Berkeley Graduate School of Journalism continues the exhibition’s world wide tour. Organized by Steidl Verlag, the show will visit up to fifty universities, art schools, museums and other non-profit spaces worldwide, with the aim of doing justice to Frank’s life and work. Each venue receives its own set of exhibition prints. By agreement with Robert Frank, all paper banners are to be disposed of after display to ensure that the exhibition is strictly not for profit.

The unconventional exhibition catalogue, edited by Alex Rühle, has been produced in cooperation with the Süddeutsche Zeitung, a distinguished German newspaper read by 1.43 million people daily. The catalogue is presented in a newspaper format, using the Süddeutsche Zeitung as a template, and features several double-page prints of Frank’s photographs that fold out as posters. The collaboration between the Süddeutsche Zeitung and Steidl Verlag has facilitated low production costs and the retail price of .00 USD, designed to make the catalogue affordable for as many as possible.

Robert Frank: Books and Films 1947–2017 at UC Berkeley is realized by Steidl in conjunction with UC Berkeley Graduate School of Journalism. The exhibition is made possible with the generous support of Steve Tisch and the Steve Tisch Family Foundation. The Richard Ehrlich Family Foundation was responsible for organizing and facilitating this exhibition, which is open to the public and admission is free.

The Films of Robert Frank will be on view at UC Berkeley on Sunday, February 19, 2017 in the Reva and David Logan Gallery for Documentary Photography at the Graduate School of Journalism, North Gate Hall, intersection of Hearst Ave and Euclid Ave and Worth Ryder Art Gallery, 116 Kroeber Hall, UC Berkeley Campus.

Friday, February 17
Opening Reception: 6:00 - 7:30PM
Lecture by Gerhard Steidl: 7:30 - 9:00PM
Print is not dead - The Beauty of Analogue Media in a Digital World

Museum der Moderne, Salzburg (4.12.16-26.3.17)
UC Berkeley Graduate School of Journalism / Worth Ryder Gallery (18.2.-3.3.17)
Art Institute of Chicago (19.5.-26.5.17)

Tokyo University of the Arts / The Chinretsukan Gallery (10.11.-24.11.16)
Kunsthalle Ziegelhütte, Appenzell (15.5.-30.10.16)
Bergamot Station / UCLA, Santa Monica (31.3.-13.4.16)
Halle 14, Leipzig (16.3.-10.4.16)
NYU/Tisch School of the Arts (29.1.-11.2.16)
Fotoistanbul, Istanbul (9.10.-8.11.15)
Museum Folkwang, Essen (17.4.-16.8.15)
Akademie der Bildenden Künste, Munich (22.11.-21.12.14)
NSDAC University, Halifax (5.9.-12.9.14)

UC Berkeley Graduate School of Journalism / Worth Ryder Gallery
116 Kroeber Hall, UC Berkeley Campus
Opening hours: Tuesday-Saturday, 12 noon-5pm
Admission is free