I am applying for a Fellowship with a very simple intention: I wish to continue, develop, and widen the kind of work I already do, and have been doing for some ten years, and apply it to the American nation in general. I am submitting work that will be seen to be documentation -- most broadly speaking. Work of this kind is, I believe, to be found carrying its own visual impact without much word explanation. The project I have in mind is one that will shape itself as it proceeds, and is essentially elastic. The material is there ; the practice will be in the photographer's hand, the vision in his mind. One says this in some embarrassment but one cannot do less than claim vision if one is to ask for consideration.
"The photographing of America" is a large order -- read at all literally, the phrase would be an absurdity. What I have in mind, then, is observation and record of what one naturalized American finds to see in the United States that signifies the kind of civilization born here and spreading elsewhere. Incidentally, it is fair to assume that when an observant travels abroad his eyes will see freshly; and that the reverse may be true when a european eye looks at the United states. I speak of the things that are there, anywhere and everywhere-- easily found, not easily selected and interpreted. A small catalog comes to the mind's eyes: a town at night, a parking lot, a supermarket, a highway, the man who owns three cars and the man who owns none, the farmer and his children, a new house and a warped clapboard house, the dictation of taste, the dream of grandeur, advertising, neon lights, the faces of the leaders and the faces of the followers, gas tanks and postoffices and backyards...
The uses of my project would be sociological, historical and aesthetic. My total production will be voluminous, as is usually the case when the photographer works with miniature film. I intend to classify and annotate my work on the spot, as I proceed. Ultimately the file I shall make should be deposited in a collection such as the one in the Library of Congress. A more immediate use I have in mind is both book and magazine publication. Two European editors who know my work have agreed that they will publish an American project of mine: 1) M. Delpire of "NSUF", Paris, for book form. 2) Mr. Kubler of "DU" for an entire issue of his magazine.
Robert Frank, 1954.