Robert Frank - Photographs New York Wednesday, April 6, 2022 | Phillips

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  • "Above all, I know that life for a photographer cannot be a matter of indifference. Opinion often consists of a kind of criticism. But criticism can come out of love."
    —Robert Frank

    Parade – Hoboken, New Jersey is the first plate in Frank’s landmark book The Americans. As such, it sets the tone for the book in which the American flag and the pageantry of politics are recurring themes set alongside Frank’s critique of a country enjoying post-war prosperity but also divided by racial and class divisions. Throughout 1956 and 1957 Frank developed and printed the pictures he had taken across the country since 1955, and slowly perfected the sequence that would ultimately be published. The Americans is meticulously ordered, made up of discreet passages, each beginning with an image of an American flag. Parade – Hoboken, New Jersey serves as an ideal overture to the images that follow, all of which relate to each other within a rigorously orchestrated progression.


    Frank’s depiction of America was initially misunderstood and loudly criticized. Frank’s intent was far more complex and nuanced, and his images more deeply layered, than reviewers initially gave him credit for. Of these images he wrote, “I have been frequently accused of deliberately twisting subject matter to my point of view. Above all, I know that life for a photographer cannot be a matter of indifference. Opinion often consists of a kind of criticism. But criticism can come out of love” (U. S. Camera Annual, 1958).


    This print was given in 1969 by Robert Frank to his friend, the eminent curator James Borcoman (1926-2019).  Borcoman’s role in incorporating photography into Canadian museums was an early and crucial one. He founded the Photographs Collection at the National Gallery of Canada in Ottawa in 1967, the first of its kind in Canada, and nurtured its growth to over 19,000 objects, resulting in a collection that has achieved a reputation both for the quality of its Nineteenth- and Twentieth-Century holdings and for the excellence of its exhibitions and publications. Among many other distinctions, he was the first Canadian curator to collect Frank’s work for a museum.

    During a career that covered thirty-four years at the National Gallery, Borcoman (1926-2019) held a variety of positions, including Director of Exhibitions and Education, Head of Publications, Senior Curator of Photographs from 1971, and Chairperson of the Prints, Drawings and Photographs Collections. While at the National Gallery he was responsible for 47 exhibitions. Among Borcoman's numerous monographs and articles are Eugene Atget, 1857-1927 (1982); Karsh: The Art of the Portrait (1989); Magicians of Light: Photographs from the Collection of the National Gallery of Canada (1993); and Charles Nègre, 1820-1880 (1976), for which he received the Distinguished Achievement Award from the Photographic Historical Society of New York and a bronze medal from the Leipzig International Book Fair.

    Borcoman was awarded the Order of Canada 2014 and honorary doctorates from Concordia University in Montreal and Carleton in Ottawa for his contributions to the art of photography in Canada including launching the careers of many photographers. Upon his retirement, he was made the only Curator Emeritus at the National Gallery of Canada.  He continued researching and writing books and essays on the history of photography into his late 80s.   


    James Borcoman (Photo by Duncan Cameron, National Archives of Canada)
    • Provenance

      Gift of the photographer to curator James Borcoman, 1969
      By descent to the present owner

    • Literature

      The Americans, no. 1
      Greenough, Looking In: Robert Frank's The Americans, pp. 211, 460, Contact no. 1
      Frank, The Lines of My Hand, n.p.
      Frank, Storylines, frontispiece 3
      Aperture, Robert Frank, cover
      Galassi, Robert Frank: In America, p. 107
      Greenough and Brookman, Robert Frank: Moving Out, pp. 111, 175
      Galassi, Walker Evans & Company, pl. 316
      Szarkowski, Photography Until Now, p. 258
      Campany, The Open Road: Photography & The American Road, p. 45
      Szarkowski, The Photographer's Eye, p. 155

    • Artist Biography

      Robert Frank

      Swiss • 1924

      As one of the leading visionaries of mid-century American photography, Robert Frank has created an indelible body of work, rich in insight and poignant in foresight. In his famed series The Americans, Frank travelled the United States, capturing the parade of characters, hierarchies and imbalances that conveyed his view of the great American social landscape.

      Frank broke the mold of what was considered successful documentary photography with his "snapshot aesthetic." It is Frank's portrayal of the United States through grit and grain that once brought his work to the apex of criticism, but has now come to define the art of documentary photography.

      View More Works


Parade – Hoboken, New Jersey

Gelatin silver print, printed no later than 1969.
9 1/2 x 13 7/8 in. (24.1 x 35.2 cm)
Signed, dated '1969' and inscribed to James Borcoman in ink in the margin.

Full Cataloguing

$100,000 - 150,000 

Sold for $100,800

Contact Specialist

Sarah Krueger
Head of Department, Photographs

Vanessa Hallett
Worldwide Head of Photographs and Chairwoman, Americas


New York Auction 6 April 2022