Robert Frank - Photographs New York Wednesday, October 12, 2022 | Phillips

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  • On the advice of Walker Evans, Robert Frank travelled from New York City to Savannah, Georgia, in 1955 in search of photographic subject matter. Evans had become mentor to Frank, had supported his applications for two successive Guggenheim grants, and further provided assistance to the younger photographer as he traveled the country taking the photographs that would ultimately be published in The Americans. On this 1955 trip, Frank passed through the coastal towns of St. Helena and McClellanville, South Carolina, taking a number of photographs that survived his rigorous editing process to make it into his book, including this photograph of a McClellanville barbershop.  


    The obvious visual reference for Frank’s photograph is the Walker Evans’s Barbershop Interior, Atlanta, taken in 1936 and included in Evans’s seminal 1938 book American Photographs, a publication which had a significant impact upon Frank’s work. While Evans’s photograph is marked by a lucid clarity, Frank’s image is multi-layered and visually complex. Frank shows the barbershop interior through the scrim of a window screen whose pattern is subtly visible throughout. He makes great compositional use of houses reflected in the shop’s windows, brilliantly blending exterior and interior space. Within these reflections can be seen Frank’s own shadowed silhouette, making the image a subtle self-portrait. While the image can be read as an homage to his mentor, it also shows how Frank internalized and personalized Evans’s influence, creating an entirely new form for personal documentary photography.  


    Walker Evans, American Photographs
    • Provenance

      Robert Friedus Gallery, New York, 1983

    • Literature

      The Americans, no. 38
      Greenough, Looking In: Robert Frank's The Americans, title page and p. 256
      Galassi, Robert Frank: In America, p. 85
      Greenough and Brookman, Robert Frank: Moving Out, p. 182

    • 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


Barbershop Through Screen Door, McClellanville, South Carolina

Gelatin silver print, printed later.
8 5/8 x 12 7/8 in. (21.9 x 32.7 cm)
Signed, titled 'Barbershop South Carolina' and dated in ink in the margin; 'Robert Frank Archive' stamp with annotations in an unidentified hand and copyright stamps on the verso.

Full Cataloguing

$50,000 - 70,000 

Contact Specialist

Sarah Krueger
Head of Department, Photographs, New York

Vanessa Hallett
Worldwide Head of Photographs and Deputy Chairwoman, Americas


New York Auction 12 October 2022