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Influential documentary photographer Robert Frank dies aged 94

Trolley, New Orleans. 1955. © Robert Frank

The Swiss-American photographer, known for his trailblazing documentation of daily life in America, passed away this Monday

Robert Frank, one of the most influential photographers of the mid-20th century, died on Monday 09 September 2019 in Inverness, on Cape Breton Island in Nova Scotia, Canada, aged 94.

Frank’s death was confirmed by Peter MacGill, whose Pace-MacGill Gallery has represented the photographer’s work since 1983.

Frank, the son of wealthy Jewish parents, was born in Switzerland on 09 November 1924, and immigrated to the US in his early 20s. He originally studied graphic design but, after seeing the photography of Magnum co-founder Henri Cartier-Bresson, developed a keen interest in the medium.

Frank pioneered a “snapshot aesthetic”, privileging spontaneity over a structured and narrative approach. He refused to romanticise, capturing the poverty and suffering of his subjects to expose the hardships of their everyday lives.

Both of Frank’s children are deceased. His daughter, Andrea, was killed, aged 20, in a plane crash in Guatemala in 1974, and his son Pablo took his own life in 1994 following a long battle with schizophrenia. His wife, artist June Lead, survives him.

An extended obituary will follow.