Robert Frank: Books and Films, 1947-2017

Robert Frank "Funeral – St Helena, South Carolina"1955 from "The Americans"(1959) (c) Robert Frank

Robert Frank “Funeral – St Helena, South Carolina”1955, from “The Americans”(1959) (c) Robert Frank


When Frank left Switzerland for New York City in 1947, he brought with him a handmade book of photographs as his professional portfolio. It was his first exploration into the ways in which the juxtaposition of photographs could convey meaning. Since then the photobook has become one of his preferred media. Without words, narrative or explanatory captions, the power of his sequences lies in the combined presence of his images. The exhibition presents 24 books, including Portfolio (1947), Peru (1948), Black White and Things (1952), his highly celebrated The Americans (1958 and 1959), and his most recent book Was haben wir gesehen / What we have seen (2016).

Frank’s masterful handling of sequencing images makes his turn to filmmaking in the late 1950s a logical progression: “A decision: I put my Leica in a cupboard. Enough of lying in wait, pursuing, sometimes catching the essence of the black and the white, the knowledge where God is. I make films. Now I speak to the people in my viewfinder. Not simple and not especially successful.” Frank has since produced films and videos between the boundaries of documentary and fiction. The exhibition presents for the first time after years of restoration Frank’s filmic output, he has produced since 1959, including Pull My Daisy (1959), Me and My Brother (1968), and The Tunnel (2005).

Organized by Steidl Verlag and its local partner, Robert Frank: Books and Films, 1947-2017 will visit up to fifty universities, art schools, museums and other non-profit spaces worldwide, with the aim of doing justice to Frank’s life and work. Each venue received its own set of exhibition prints. By agreement with Robert Frank, all paper banners are to be disposed of after display to ensure that the exhibition is strictly not for profit. For the show held at Tokyo University of the Arts from November 11 to 24, 2016, the graduate and undergraduate students of the Tokyo University of the arts, were lucky enough to be able to collaborate with Gerhard Steidl in planning, installing, and realizing the exhibition, which turned out to be amazingly successful with more than 10,000 visitors in 14 days. The one held at KIITO: Design and Creative Center, Kobe would follow this spirit and hope to make the local students and young people involved.

The unconventional exhibition catalogue, edited by Alex Rühle, has been produced in cooperation with the Süddeutsche Zeitung, a distinguished German newspaper read by 1.43 million people daily. The catalogue is presented in a newspaper format, using the Süddeutsche Zeitung as a template, and features several double-page prints of Frank’s photographs that fold out as posters. The collaboration between the Süddeutsche Zeitung and Steidl Verlag has facilitated low production costs and the retail price of 500 Japanese Yen, designed to make the catalogue affordable as many as possible.


Robert Frank: Books and Films, 1947-2017
September 2 – 22, 2017, 10:00-18:00
Admission free

Organized by: Steidl Verlag, Kobe Cultural Foundation, Organizing Committee of “Robert Frank: Books and Films, 1947-2017 in Kobe”
Supported by: Hyogo Prefecture, Kobe City, Port of Kobe 150th Anniversary Events Planning Committee, Embassy of Switzerland, German Embassy
Sponsored by: Kobe Bunka Shienkikin, The Yamaoka Memorial Foundation, Tsutomu Nakauchi Foundation, Pro Helvetia, UCC Holdings Co., Ltd.
Cooperation: Design and Creative Center Kobe, Goethe-Institut Osaka, POST, U.S. & Associates, Gallery Shimada, Kobe University, Kobe Design University Visual Communication Studio, Department of Design, Tokyo University of the Arts
Contact: Organizing Committee of “Robert Frank: Books and Films, 1947-2017 in Kobe” tel: +81(0)78 361 7127  fax: +81(0)78 351 3121


Place Option
KIITO Hall, Gallery A
1-4 Onohama-cho, Chuo Ward, Kobe, Hyogo Prefecture, Japan
20 min walk south from Sannomiya Station (JR, Hankyu and Hanshin Railways)10 min walk from Sannomiya Hanadokei-Mae Station (Kobe Subway Kaigan Line)10 min walk from Boeki Center Station (Port Liner)
September 2 -22, 2017
10:00-18:00 (exhibition)