“When people look at my pictures I want them to feel the way they do when they want to read a line of a poem twice.” Robert Frank, LIFE (26 November 1951), p. 21

Robert Frank is on my mind because I was looking through The Americans and thinking about the exhibition I saw at the Met last year. The book was the second monograph I bought when I became interested in photography in high school. I hit the streets shooting my own versions of his grainy, crusty black and white subjects: a doll in a store window, a hippie handing out free-press papers in Georgetown, a young couple entwined on a bench in front of The White House.
Reading his contact sheets in the show at the Met I was astounded to see how sloppy they are: underexposed, out of order, some strips exposed upside down and backwards. This was comforting to me. I have spent the last 13 years as a photography teacher advising my students to make readable contact sheets in an attempt to make up for all the mistakes I made with mine. Knowing now that Frank was as sloppy in the darkroom as I and yet managed to get enough good prints to make a ground-breaking monograph that would change the course of photographic history made me feel a little better about my own process.
So, back to the quote: Photographs have a lot in common with Haiku. And lately my Blackberry is my camera of choice. The pared down technology and instantaneous networking possibilities remind me of the SX-70. And you don’t have to take them too seriously, just as momentary observations, fleeting thoughts.

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