Nov 16, 2023
1950s America proved fertile ground for photographers Robert Frank and Todd Webb, who both received Guggenheim Foundation grants to traverse the country in 1955 and record their respective visions. While Frank’s resulting book, The Americans, eventually made him a legend, Webb’s photographs remained unpublished, and were all but lost to history due to a 1970s-era business deal gone bad.
The saga of Webb’s unaccounted-for archive and its eventual recovery is one of the juicier tidbits from today’s show, which focuses on the long-awaited opportunity to compare, contrast, and rediscover Frank and Webb’s respective visions from their travels in the exhibition America and Other Myths.
Joining us in this discussion are Lisa Volpe, photography curator at the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, and Bill Shapiro, former Life magazine editor-in-chief.
Journey back to the Nifty Fifties astride these two photographers as we examine how two distinct proposals to discover America at mid-century evolved along the open road and in the context of the era’s social tenure.
In the words of Lisa Volpe, “They both saw the same social ills playing out in American culture, they just talked about them differently.”
Above photograph © The June Leaf and Robert Frank Foundation
Guests: Lisa Volpe & Bill Shapiro
For more information on our guests and they gear they use,
America and Other Myths Exhibit at the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston: https://www.mfah.org/exhibitions/robert-frank-todd-webb-across-america-1955
America and Other Myths exhibition catalog: https://yalebooks.yale.edu/book/9780300270891/america-and-other-myths/
Robert Frank Archive at the MFAH: https://www.mfah.org/films/robert-frank-collection
June Leaf & Robert Frank Foundation Website: https://leaffrankfoundation.org/
Todd Webb Archive: https://www.toddwebbarchive.com/news-events
Blind Magazine articles by Bill Shapiro:
Robert Frank film footage from Blind Magazine: https://www.blind-magazine.com/stories/exclusive-never-before-seen-video-of-robert-frank/
Bill Shapiro Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/billshapiro/
Todd Webb in Africa episode on the B&H Photography Podcast: https://www.bhphotovideo.com/explora/podcasts/photography/podcast-todd-webb-in-africa%E2%80%94rediscovered-color-photographs