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One of the Coolest Books About the USA Ever Made, by Art Chantry

theamericansRobert Frank’s game-changing book THE AMERICANS, published in 1958 by Grove Press (there was a different edition published in france a year earlier with essays many assorted french intellectuals (and cover art by saul steinberg). the american edition had a single essay by jack kerouac. the project itself was funded by a Guggenhiem Grant.

what was so remarkable about this collection of images was that it was a gritty hyper-realistic set of B&W photos of average americans – a brutal cross section of rich and poor, intelligent and stupid, well-adjusted and utterly mad. for maybe the first time in the new post-war world of these untited states, we actually looked at ourselves warts and all. and there were a LOT of warts.

it’s also one of the coolest books about the USA ever made. sure, we look dirty and stupid and obsessed and more than a little foolish. but, DAMN we are a cool bunch of people. even when we’re sleazy, we’re sleazy in astonishing and clever ways. we know how to have FUN. i mean, we americans really know where it’s at – it’s with US!

when the rolling stones wanted to come up with a cover of for their very best record “exile on main street”, they tossed a copy of this at their selected designer John Van Hammersveld, and said, “make it look like this”. so, van hammer simply cut up the book, pulled some shots from robert frank’s banned documentary film about the stones (called “Cocksucker Blues”) and did a REALLY crude montage. then he slapped the scribbled mick jagger written notes ONTO the cover. DONE! and beyond brilliant.

Art Chantry

Google images page for Robert Frank The Americans

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