Lot 9
  • 9

Robert Frank

70,000 - 100,000 USD
bidding is closed


  • Robert Frank
  • Signed by Mary Frank in pencil on the reverse
  • Gelatin silver print
  • 13 x 8 1/2 inches
signed by Mary Frank, the photographer's former wife, in pencil on the reverse, framed, circa 1948, probably printed in the 1950s


Collection of Mary Frank, 2004

Howard Greenberg Gallery, New York, 2007


'2nd Prize—Individual Pictures: The Poet's Camera Sees Everything,' LIFE, 26 November 1951, p. 21

Photography at The Museum of Modern Art Bulletin, vol. XIX, no. 4, 1952, cover

Robert Frank, The Lines of My Hand (New York, 1989), unpaginated

Robert Frank, Black White and Things (Washington, D. C.: National Gallery of Art, 1994), pl. 20

Sarah Greenough and Philip Brookman, Robert Frank: Moving Out (Washington, D. C.: National Gallery of Art, 1994), p. 31

Sarah Greenough, Looking In: Robert Frank’s The Americans (Washington, D. C.: National Gallery of Art, 2009), p. 46 and pl. 45

Robert Frank (Aperture, 1976), p. 89

Catalogue Note

Street Line, New York (34th Street), like Chair, Paris (Lot 5), figured prominently in Robert Frank's early career in New York.  It was among the first four photographs by Frank purchased by The Museum of Modern Art in 1950, along with Chair, Paris; White Tower on 14th Street, New York; and Peru (heads in a landscape)These were shown in MoMA's 1950 exhibition, 51 American Photographers, along with new works by Harry Callahan, Irving Penn, Frederick Sommer, and Art Sinsabaugh, among others.  In 1952, it appeared on the cover of the Museum's bulletin.

At Edward Steichen’s urging, Frank had entered LIFE magazine’s Young Photographers Contest in the fall of 1951 and was awarded second prize in the ‘Individual Pictures’ category.  LIFE published three photographs—Street Line, My Family, and Paris/Tulip—in its 26 November issue, under the title, ‘The Poet’s Camera Sees Everything,’ with the following text:

‘Second Prize was won by Swiss-born photographer Robert Frank, 27.  A contest judge called him “a poet with a camera,” and Frank himself declares, “When people look at my pictures I want them to feel the way they do when they want to read a line of a poem twice.”  Scorning trick pictures and overdone fads, Frank aims his camera at familiar “little” things—his wife nursing their child, an empty street in Manhattan, a young man who has bought a flower to surprise his girl—and from these he tries “to capture a moment.”  By Frank’s stubbornly high standards such moments are scarce.  “I can be happy if I have a few good pictures,” he says, “no one has a very good one very often.”’

Street Line, New York was selected by the photographer in 1952 for his planned, but at the time unpublished, volume, Black White and Things, the definitive statement of the young photographer’s work in the late 1940s and early 1950s.  The book is divided into three sections, as suggested by the title, and Street Line appears as the final plate in the book's White section.  This strikingly graphic image of an empty 34th Street in Manhattan presages the famous 'U. S. 285, New Mexico,' published in The Americans later in the decade.