With all due respect to the hippies of Haight-Ashbury, the Left Bank literati, and the Rent guy, the only version of bohemianism that has ever mattered to me came from Robert Frank. I discovered The Americans, his book of photographs, in 1986, after fleeing the suburbs for New York. I was wallowing in the music of the Replacements and the films of Jim Jarmusch, and Frank’s 1959 work captured my feelings of being part of the world yet estranged from it. The pictures of rural-Mississippi riversides and ravaged Montana mining towns beckoned toward a country I had yet to explore; his subjects—bummed-out lunch-counter patrons, business-suited fat cats, religious crazies—evoked the fantastic hodgepodge I saw on the Lower East Side. And Frank’s unapologetically critical view of cozy Eisenhower-era consumerism resonated with my own hysterical alienation from Reagan’s eighties. In The Americans, the rich are gargoyles; the poor, the outsiders—queers, blacks, Hispanics—radiate pride and authenticity. They are, to cop one of his friend Jack Kerouac’s favorite words, “holy.”
more from Karen Schoemer at New York Magazine here.