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Saturday, 1 June 2013

Robert Frank & Maria Short [Context and Narrative]

Robert Frank's name has now come up in a couple of places. He was referenced in my last assignment report and also referenced in the book I have just finished, Context and Narrative, by Maria Short. In fact Short's book references Frank's work twice, firstly under symbols and then again under a section entitled text.

I was interested in both of these sections, more so on signs and symbols, or as it is correctly defined as semiotics. I had not considered, other than incidentally, the use of symbols and indeed their power in portraying images to the viewer in how they relate to them perhaps on a personal level.

Franks 'The Americans' was referenced in Short's book as a collection of photographs exploring symbolic meaning. Many of his images have symbols relating to wealth, standing, a moment in time, and class. Sarah Greenough, Curator of Photographs at Washington DC's Gallery of Art, describes this work as the single most important collection of photographs since World War 2.

I was drawn to the following image with two symbols and text. The obvious is the newspaper title, a day that shook American's all of whom could identify with Norma Jeane aka Marilyn Monroe, who started life as a poor child, spending most of her live in various foster homes, yet becoming one of the biggest names and sex symbols in the twentieth century. What makes this interesting though is the girl waving what looks like the American flag, and act normally enacted for celebrations. What America mourning or celebrating her life?


Franks images are a great inspiration for reportage. Short's book references his later images under the section of 'Text'. Sick of Goodby's is a quite disturbing image, unlike his other work, one wonders what is really going on. The writing, by Frank's hand, in a large mirror is supposedly meant to mean Sick of Goodbye's. The emotional pain may be a reflection of the loss of Frank's daughter, Andrea, and his difficult relationship with his son Pablo, who was committed for schizophrenia as well as the break up of his marriage. Perhaps on reflection we can associate the pain in all our lives to some extent with this image.


Finally, Short's book was a really good read that gave many ideas and references at a very high level. Something I must try to see in all images I take and look at.

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