How To Take Photos Like Robert Frank

Robert Frank was a Swiss photographer and documentary filmmaker whose 1958 book titled The Americans has been heralded as perhaps the most influential photography book of the 20th century. In this 16-minute video, photographer Frederik Trovatten shows you how to mimic Frank’s style.

Frank initially ventured out into the 1950s American landscape with optimism, but that was quickly quashed as he was hit with the emotional side effects of the fast-paced lifestyle and overemphasis on money. The result was that he felt America was a bleak and lonely place, and his photos gave off an air of sadness. Trovatten’s video highlights as much.

In the video, Trovatten is shooting in Mexico, not the United States, but manages to focus on aspects of Mexican society through the lens of how he thinks Frank would capture it. What Trovatten has working for him is that, just like Frank, he is a foreigner in the country he is capturing through the lens.

That said, Trovatten has been in Mexico for four years now, so it was challenging for him to put his mind in the place that Frank’s was when he set out across the United States. Frank was seeing everything he photographed for the first time, which colored his perspective. To shoot in his style in a familiar place like Trovatten is doing in Mexico, you have to try and put yourself back in the frame of mind of seeing the location you are in for the first time.

Despite the general air of positivity, happiness, and pride in their homeland, Trovatten does an admirable job emulating Frank’s somber style. Though the images here are great, the mood they project does not necessarily mirror the reality of the situation. Since he went into this task doing his best to shoot like a legend, getting similar feeling results in a completely different environment is quite impressive.

If you liked this video, you should check out his last one where he shows how to take photos like Vivian Maier. For more from Trovatten, check out his YouTube channelwebsite, and Instagram.