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Leaving Home, Coming Home: A Portrait of Robert Frank (2005)

This claims to be the only interview/documentary that Robert Frank has ever given – a retrospective on his 83rd birthday by the BBC’s South Bank Show.

It gives a fascinating insight into the man, his life and work, including very personal stories of his relationship with his son, who had mental health problems. It is privilege to hear someone like Frank describing his experiences himself, rather than listening to the interpretation of a narrator or biographer.

I like the way Frank talks about his relationship with people and places and how they are of central importance to his work. He’d probably hate the term psychogeographer (see separate blog post) and being labelled that way, but the word would fit. He talks about his home in New York City and how the place used to be full of life – not necessarily easy, but a bitter-sweet life, and about how he now finds the place different, lacking community (‘yuppies are new neighbours’). Also, poignantly that his friends have ‘moved away’ and he is now old.  I wonder if this disaffection echoes his period away from photography (when he work in film), because he felt photography had become too commercial.

I could find nothing to dislike about this video. It could have been interesting to hear some of his contemporaries views, or other photographers’ views on his work, but that is already well documented and when you have the great man himself in front of the camera, that would have been a distraction.

A lesson is the importance of meaning in a photograph – what story does it tell – a good photography has to to have a purpose to hold the viewer’s interest.

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