Robert Frank famously shot a lot of film to make his landmark book The Americans—close to 800 rolls over the course of several road trips across the country in the mid-1950s. In the end only 83 images from 81 rolls of film made the cut. The contact sheets from these rolls were published as a box set in Japan in 2009, and are on view in “Robert Frank—American Contacts,” a new show at Danziger Gallery in New York, opening March 7 and running until April 8.
The 2009 project, “ROBERT FRANK—THE AMERICANS, 81 contact sheets,” reproduced Frank’s contact sheets as lithographs, printed at double the size of a normal 35 mm contact print. The collection was conceived by Kazuhiko Motomura, who published Frank’s work in Japan—he released The Lines of my Hands there in 1972. The contact sheets were Motomura’s last publication.
Like those from any brilliant photographer, Frank’s contact sheets offer a glimpse of his working methods. He often made a handful of tries at a composition—we see him frame and reframe the flag and brick building at a Hoboken parade, which appears on the cover of later editions. Other images seem to appear fully formed, like the image from the cover of the first American printing, which shows a segregated New Orleans trolley—he took two shots.