Automania

U.S. 90 En Route to Del Rio, Texas

Robert Frank. U.S. 90 En Route to Del Rio, Texas. 1955 359

Lucy Gallun: There are so many pictures of Americans experiencing life through a vehicle.

I'm Lucy Gallun. I'm an Associate Curator in the Department of Photography at The Museum of Modern Art.

Robert Frank was a Swiss-born, Jewish photographer. And he moved to New York City when he was 22 years old, in 1947. He made a multi-part road trip across the United States, which resulted in his epic project called The Americans, which in its book form included 83 pictures. It really was an outsider's view, this complex, layered portrait of the United States.

In New York City, Frank is introduced to the 35-millimeter Leica camera. If he's on the road, traveling to different cities, on the sidewalks, interacting with folks, he's got his handheld camera and can capture an image quickly, on the fly.

In 1955, Frank bought a used 1950 Ford Business Coupe before setting off on the first leg of the road trip. And this car appears in multiple images, including this picture called US 90 on Route to Del Rio, Texas.

Windows appear again and again in images from The Americans. And they're often used to isolate individuals or groups from one another. Here, I feel like the windshield works in a different way. Frank did most of the road trip alone, but sometimes with his family. We can see Frank's wife Mary and she's huddled down in the front seat of the car with their young son. And so we get a sense of that personal experience, that everyday life with his family on the road.

0:00
4 / 15