Monday, March 19, 2012

Finding Frank in Hoboken

In 1955 Swiss photographer Robert Frank visited Hoboken to document the city's centennial celebration. It's a day that generated several memorable Frank photographs, including two that open his masterful photo essay "The Americans."

This one features as the cover of the book:

In the spring of 2009, the National Art Gallery opened an exhibition of Frank's monograph. Titled "Looking In: Robert Frank's The Americans," the show traveled from Washington, to San Francisco to the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City, where I viewed the work and purchased the catalog.

In the catalog and on display were contact sheets from Frank's day in Hoboken. These recently unseen images featured urban landmarks that still stand today. From these I was able to retrace the footsteps of Frank in Hoboken -- from City Hall, where he photographed preening local politicians, down Washington Street to the building featured in the cover photo. I located the windows at 70 Washington Street where I believe Frank captured the image:

I was fairly certain above was the right pair of windows based on a contact sheet image from his second camera, in which the flag is clearly visible in a wider frame including the building to the north:

Here's my present-day photograph from a similar angle:

Note the orientation of the two floors with the northern floor approximately four to six inches higher. Also note the detail of the corresponding window lintels.

I then looked more closely, photographing the brick patterns between the two windows. I compared these to those of the original cover image. The match is unmistakable:

The top image is from the present and the lower from 1955 with my trace in orange.

I then checked this brick pattern against all of the other sets of windows along Frank's route down Washington Street. There was no other match.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Hi Tim
Nice job finding the building. Do you happen to remember the street number on Washington st? You can message me offline if you wish -