Art Or Propaganda? Postwar American Photography

Not since Socialist/Heroic Realism in the 1930's has a mode of art been so rigidly constrained to a political orthodoxy, as photography has been for the last 40 years.

Art is, I'm told, is supposed to invoke some kind of thoughts or feelings in the viewer. Since I'm sadly bereft of an artistic sensibility (as my brother frequently points out) I'm quite unable to judge the artistic merit of a painting or photograph.  I might look at, say, a photograph of a certain pepper and think:  "My, what an unusual pepper; I've not seen one like that at the Stop'n'Save."  So I haven't in the past concerned myself much with artistic matters.

However, last winter I bought myself a big black camera.  In an effort to learn how to use it properly I came across a group of photographers that attained considerable prominence in the years after World War II.  This group includes Robert Frank, Lee Friedlander, Garry Winogrand and in a way culminating with Diane Arbus. I found out more recently that all but Frank were protégés of
John Szarkowski, Director of Photography at the Museum of Modern Art from 1962-1991.

American Photography, 1890-1965, From the Museum of Modern Art, New York displays a representative sampling of the work of these four artists.  An introductory essay by Luc Sante describes their project.  He writes:
"The popular impression of the 1950's...is of a safe, dull period, kept quiet by either repression or contentment.  The photography of the postwar era, however, acts a corrective to this cliché.  [Regarding Robert Frank's The Americans]: published reviews claimed that his work was marred by spite, bitterness, and narrow prejudice...a sad poem for sick people'...surely the reaction owed part of its particular force to the fact that the images were nearly all of that nameless thing in the weeds behind the billboard of American life."
Graham Clarke, in The Oxford History of Art: The Photograph has a similar viewpoint:
"In his travels across the States Frank finds little, if anything, to celebrate.  The dominant mood of these images is one of a bleak and gloomy sadness...."
As does Mike Johnston in The Empirical Photographer:
 "Frank's work expresses cynical despair."
And Brian Appel, in Art Critical
"The little vitality he recorded came from America's sub-cultures and counter-cultures ...editors felt his images were scratchy, grainy, sometimes out-of-focus and depressive; his bleak collections of slices of small-town America caught with its racist, homophobic pants down...
Well, we're all in agreement here.  Certainly many aspects of life, and American life in the 1950's, were not all sweetness and light.  There are in fact tired sullen workers, petulant waitresses, lonely stretches of highway, and overfed businessmen; all of which deserves to be recorded.   Robert Frank is an artist, and is entitled to his viewpoint; someone with the all-encompassing vision of a Shakespeare comes around only once in a millennium.

Here's my problem:  Looking through the pages of MOMA's postwar collection, the vision of Robert Frank is just about all I see.  You don't believe me?  More from Luc Sante: 

"Garry Winogrand's.... portraits of the shell-shocked and anomic society, wandering through public structures with no clear destination.

"Lee Friedlander's oddly silent urban landscapes seemed like pictures of an abandoned country.

"[Diane Arbus's people] were the final, conclusive products of the twentieth century, inheritors of progress, war, commerce, mass culture, and all the rest of it.

"If there was anything at all outside this purview, it was to be found in the rapidly shrinking wilderness."
Graham Clarke has a lot to say about Diane Arbus.  He discusses A Family on their Lawn One Sunday in Westchester:
"...an almost iconic statement on the nature of suburban America.  Spatially, for example, the geometry of the image is crucial.  The lawn takes up two-thirds of the photographic space and indicates precisely the sense of emptiness, sterility, and dislocation that pervades the image.  Equally, the trees at the back have a looming presence that suggests a haunting otherness. Even at this level the atmosphere seems gloomy, empty, and depressing.  A literal, physical configuration has given way to the beginnings of a compelling connotative register suggestive of a psychological and emotional inner space...An image of family relaxation seems to have been inverted and emerges as a psychological study of estrangement and loneliness which, in its compulsive effect, speaks about a whole culture's condition."
A whole culture's condition?  That's a bummer.

Here's another interesting photograph, by Helen Stitzer:

birth
"[Stitzer's] work is distinguished by a unique vision that, in contradistinction to much of the ‘anonymous' street photography of Friedlander and Winogrand, is marked by a deliberate exploration of the syndactylism between photographer and subject.  In this example the new father, at a seminal moment of his life, is looking away from his newborn baby and instead is rather posing for the camera.  The eye focuses first on the father, then on the baby, whilst the woman who just delivered is carefully excluded from the frame.  The bland background is on closer examination a door, the doorknob above the man's shoulder a perfect example of Barthes' punctum .... The slightly goofy smile of the new father that is mirrored by the expression of his child is an example of Stitzer's subtle humor."
The reason why there's no citation for that paragraph is that I made it up myself.  The photograph is really on page 7 of The Joy of Life, a collection of photographs from the magazine celebrating (from the Table of Contents) A Child's World, Growing Up, Loving, Simple Pleasures, and so forth.  My brother (the artistic one) briefly looked through it the other day and pushed it away as if it were a radioactive turd.  I'm pretty sure that none of these photos has the artistic merit to be included in a MOMA exhibition.  So I need to learn:  why not?
 
Who the hell is Helen Stitzer, anyhow?  Maybe there is a typo in the credits, she doesn't even come up on Google.  No MOMA exhibition for her!  Why not?  Well, I don't have an artistic sensibility, remember, so I don't know.  Maybe, Unlike Graham Clarke's description of Ms. Arbus, Helen Stitzer fails to
"inculcate a dense play of the denotative and connotative in relation to its subject, compounding its textual reference within a geometry of the straight and circular, [resulting in] a static image which resonates with multiple meanings and ultimately retains a complexity which resists paraphrase and description."
Clarke lauds a photograph's  "capacity to probe and suggest larger conditions, which underlies the notion of an image's potential ‘universal' appeal and international language."  Well, I guess this photo doesn't cut it.  After all, it's just a guy and a baby.  Just a simple, sappy, snapshot....

Snapshot?  Did someone say snapshot?  Funny you should bring that up.  Toward a Social Landscape has examples of five contemporary photographers including Friedlander and Winogrand.  From the introduction by Nathan Lyons:
"For a number of years...I have suggested the need for an evaluation of what might be considered authentic photographic forms. One which I have paid particular attention to, and which has undergone extensive research, has been the question of the ‘snapshot'.... interestingly enough the snapshot's significance in modifying our attitude toward picture content has been quite remarkable...[and] has contributed greatly to the visual vocabulary of all graphic media since before the turn of the century."
He goes on to quote Duane Michals: 
‘The only real idea that I have about [my photographs] is that they are essentially snapshots.  For snapshots, I feel, often have an inherent simplicity and directness that I find beautiful.'
Oh, I guess there are snapshots and then there are snapshots.


Let me try another one from The Joy of Life.  Three girls, about 10, engaged in passionate conversation. 

three girls
Copyright Ken Heyman/Woodfin Camp/Time and Life Pictures/Getty Images.  Used with Permission.

Look at their facial expressions; the girl on the left probably had the exact same expression thirty years later when told that plaintiff's counsel rejected the settlement offer and wants to go to court.  The body language follows the facial expressions, the interactions of the three girls adds another layer, and the juxtaposition of this adult behavior to the fact that they are all holding dolls gives yet another dimension, suggesting a profound yet enigmatic meditation on the meaning of childhood and the evanescence of time.  (Whoops, getting carried away again.)

This photograph is by Ken Heyman, who as it turns out actually was shown at MOMA, in 1963.  Apparently that was before he fell off the wagon, and got involved in projects like The World's Family series. From Publisher's Weekly
"this perky but standard-issue quartet of photo-essays explores relations between parents and offspring all over the globe. Mothers ‘wash you and feed you and teach you to cook.' Fathers ‘play songs for you. They take you fishing.' Alongside this sex-role stereotyping, however, is a generally successful bid for a multicultural overview."
And anyhow that was only the second year of the tenure of Mr. Szarkowski as Director of Photography and sometimes museum exhibitions are planned well in advance.

You don't care much for either of those pictures?  Fine, I can live with that.  But do none of the photographs in The Joy of Life have artistic merit?  And if not, why not?  Is it because of their composition, their lighting, their I-don't-know-what?  Or is it their subject matter?

What exactly makes a photo by Frank, Freidlander, Winogrand, or Arbus so much superior to a Stitzer or a Heyman?  The artistic merit of the former is not always perfectly obvious.  Concerning Winogrand, for example; this is by Mike Johnston, in The Empirical Photographer:
"...whom Szarkowski, famously, called ‘the central photographer of his generation' .... Here was a photographer who by the end of his career had barely mastered rudimentary technique, whose idea of a good place to go shoot was the airport, who got emotion into his pictures by recording the anger of the strangers he intruded upon, whose way of introducing graphic dynamism into his pictures in his later years was to always hold the camera at a tilt, and whose notion of a revealing human gesture was a hand feeding peanuts to an elephant trunk..... The single most remarkable thing about his career, in fact-aside from its eventual slouching ruin-is probably the credit and attention Szarkowski extended to him."
(It would be strange, one suspects, to describe a someone who has never mastered
the fundamentals of calculus, doesn't bother to calibrate his instruments, and is notorious for drawing erroneous conclusions as "one of the great experimental physicists of his generation" but I guess that just proves that the rules are different in Science and in Art. Other thoughts
here.)

So can someone please explain to me what kind of people are so enamored of the Chronicles of American Vacuity by the dyspeptic quartet of Frank, Friedlander, Winogrand and Arbus--- that they are willing to cab it up to 53rd Street and fork over twenty bucks for an opportunity to view their pictures?  To return to my original theme, what thoughts and feelings do these pictures invoke?

Oh, I think I know the answer, and it's not a pretty one.

After food, clothing, shelter, and physical security, people have a craving to feel superior to other people.  Intellectuals are smarter, Japanese have their ancient traditions, high school jocks are cooler, and religious people of various faiths are going to heaven (but you're not). 

The people viewing the works of Frank, Friedlander, Winogrand, and Arbus enjoy a smug sense of satisfaction:  first, because they are the kind of sophisticated artistic people that can appreciate that sort of thing; but more importantly, they are not the kind of lonely, sullen, apathetic losers that Robert Frank photographed, let alone the freakish subjects of Diane Arbus.

There is nothing wrong with this warped, bitter, and one-sided picture of America if it were balanced by another point of view...but it is not.  In American Photography, 1890-1965, From the Museum of Modern Art, New York it is only balanced a single photograph: a group of happy teens posing in front of a refrigerator with their ice skating paraphernalia.  This Kodak Advertisement by Ralph Bartholomew, was included (I think) only to evoke a feeling of disdainful irony.  How dare these ignorant and callow youths smirk and simper at the very moment when the dark night of fascism is about to descend?

I am so ignorant, I think that at least a few of the photographs that grace the pages of The Joy of Life are the equals, in every way, to those hanging on the hallowed walls of MOMA.  Their only fault is that they fail to present a uniformly dismal, pessimistic jaundiced view of mankind, and of American culture in particular.  Therefore they do not appeal to the intellectual snobs that have such an intense craving to feel superior to other people.  In other words, they're not "artistic" enough.

So who cares?  I certainly don't care if someone wants to spend his or her free time gazing at "a vast expanse of unmodulated red paint."  But in photography the same aesthetic that informs this worldview spills over into the political. Here is Brian Appel again; the title of his piece is Beauty and ‘the Beats'-- Robert Frank's "The Americans" (1955-56): Poised for New Highs in the Age of Bush?

Frank's camera was a weapon against cultural and political conservatives and he saw it serve as an important avenue for expressing himself politically... and no doubt he was on a mission to persuade and possibly change what he felt were the narrow alternatives offered by the establishment's culture...It was at the height of the cold war -- the conviction of Alger Hiss in 1948, the 1950-54 rise and fall of Senator Joe McCarthy, and the June '54 executions of Julius and Ethel Rosenberg -- fueling paranoia and naïve racism and broadening the gap between rich and poor, blacks and whites, and leaders and followers ...Frank invited Kerouac to write the introduction to his book.  Both men shared the belief that U.S. power had an often corrupting influence; the most important political aim of the ‘Beat' movement was to change the country spiritually and culturally. Kerouac's "true-story novels" and Frank's photographs which were ‘...giddy with images of patriotism and militarism...' helped to name that discontent... 

"Incidentally, while I was researching the conditions surrounding the origins and politics behind "the Beats", the early and mid-50s was starting to look a lot like what's going on today.  America's renewed emphasis on patriotism and increased vigilance since 9/11 with the "spreading of Democracy" and the frequent mentioning of the U.S. "Imperialist stance" is eerily resonant.  Could this have something to do with the increase in prices of Frank's very politically edgy take on America as we approach the 50th anniversary of its execution?"
So once again it's time to call on the brave but pitifully small army of photographers, armed only with their cameras (preferably Leicas) but willing to defy the establishment with all its soul-crushing conformity...

Not since Socialist/Heroic Realism in the 1930's has a mode of art been so rigidly constrained to a political orthodoxy, as photography has been for the last 40 years.

Art is, I'm told, is supposed to invoke some kind of thoughts or feelings in the viewer. Since I'm sadly bereft of an artistic sensibility (as my brother frequently points out) I'm quite unable to judge the artistic merit of a painting or photograph.  I might look at, say, a photograph of a certain pepper and think:  "My, what an unusual pepper; I've not seen one like that at the Stop'n'Save."  So I haven't in the past concerned myself much with artistic matters.

However, last winter I bought myself a big black camera.  In an effort to learn how to use it properly I came across a group of photographers that attained considerable prominence in the years after World War II.  This group includes Robert Frank, Lee Friedlander, Garry Winogrand and in a way culminating with Diane Arbus. I found out more recently that all but Frank were protégés of
John Szarkowski, Director of Photography at the Museum of Modern Art from 1962-1991.

American Photography, 1890-1965, From the Museum of Modern Art, New York displays a representative sampling of the work of these four artists.  An introductory essay by Luc Sante describes their project.  He writes:
"The popular impression of the 1950's...is of a safe, dull period, kept quiet by either repression or contentment.  The photography of the postwar era, however, acts a corrective to this cliché.  [Regarding Robert Frank's The Americans]: published reviews claimed that his work was marred by spite, bitterness, and narrow prejudice...a sad poem for sick people'...surely the reaction owed part of its particular force to the fact that the images were nearly all of that nameless thing in the weeds behind the billboard of American life."
Graham Clarke, in The Oxford History of Art: The Photograph has a similar viewpoint:
"In his travels across the States Frank finds little, if anything, to celebrate.  The dominant mood of these images is one of a bleak and gloomy sadness...."
As does Mike Johnston in The Empirical Photographer:
 "Frank's work expresses cynical despair."
And Brian Appel, in Art Critical
"The little vitality he recorded came from America's sub-cultures and counter-cultures ...editors felt his images were scratchy, grainy, sometimes out-of-focus and depressive; his bleak collections of slices of small-town America caught with its racist, homophobic pants down...
Well, we're all in agreement here.  Certainly many aspects of life, and American life in the 1950's, were not all sweetness and light.  There are in fact tired sullen workers, petulant waitresses, lonely stretches of highway, and overfed businessmen; all of which deserves to be recorded.   Robert Frank is an artist, and is entitled to his viewpoint; someone with the all-encompassing vision of a Shakespeare comes around only once in a millennium.

Here's my problem:  Looking through the pages of MOMA's postwar collection, the vision of Robert Frank is just about all I see.  You don't believe me?  More from Luc Sante: 

"Garry Winogrand's.... portraits of the shell-shocked and anomic society, wandering through public structures with no clear destination.

"Lee Friedlander's oddly silent urban landscapes seemed like pictures of an abandoned country.

"[Diane Arbus's people] were the final, conclusive products of the twentieth century, inheritors of progress, war, commerce, mass culture, and all the rest of it.

"If there was anything at all outside this purview, it was to be found in the rapidly shrinking wilderness."
Graham Clarke has a lot to say about Diane Arbus.  He discusses A Family on their Lawn One Sunday in Westchester:
"...an almost iconic statement on the nature of suburban America.  Spatially, for example, the geometry of the image is crucial.  The lawn takes up two-thirds of the photographic space and indicates precisely the sense of emptiness, sterility, and dislocation that pervades the image.  Equally, the trees at the back have a looming presence that suggests a haunting otherness. Even at this level the atmosphere seems gloomy, empty, and depressing.  A literal, physical configuration has given way to the beginnings of a compelling connotative register suggestive of a psychological and emotional inner space...An image of family relaxation seems to have been inverted and emerges as a psychological study of estrangement and loneliness which, in its compulsive effect, speaks about a whole culture's condition."
A whole culture's condition?  That's a bummer.

Here's another interesting photograph, by Helen Stitzer:

birth
"[Stitzer's] work is distinguished by a unique vision that, in contradistinction to much of the ‘anonymous' street photography of Friedlander and Winogrand, is marked by a deliberate exploration of the syndactylism between photographer and subject.  In this example the new father, at a seminal moment of his life, is looking away from his newborn baby and instead is rather posing for the camera.  The eye focuses first on the father, then on the baby, whilst the woman who just delivered is carefully excluded from the frame.  The bland background is on closer examination a door, the doorknob above the man's shoulder a perfect example of Barthes' punctum .... The slightly goofy smile of the new father that is mirrored by the expression of his child is an example of Stitzer's subtle humor."
The reason why there's no citation for that paragraph is that I made it up myself.  The photograph is really on page 7 of The Joy of Life, a collection of photographs from the magazine celebrating (from the Table of Contents) A Child's World, Growing Up, Loving, Simple Pleasures, and so forth.  My brother (the artistic one) briefly looked through it the other day and pushed it away as if it were a radioactive turd.  I'm pretty sure that none of these photos has the artistic merit to be included in a MOMA exhibition.  So I need to learn:  why not?
 
Who the hell is Helen Stitzer, anyhow?  Maybe there is a typo in the credits, she doesn't even come up on Google.  No MOMA exhibition for her!  Why not?  Well, I don't have an artistic sensibility, remember, so I don't know.  Maybe, Unlike Graham Clarke's description of Ms. Arbus, Helen Stitzer fails to
"inculcate a dense play of the denotative and connotative in relation to its subject, compounding its textual reference within a geometry of the straight and circular, [resulting in] a static image which resonates with multiple meanings and ultimately retains a complexity which resists paraphrase and description."
Clarke lauds a photograph's  "capacity to probe and suggest larger conditions, which underlies the notion of an image's potential ‘universal' appeal and international language."  Well, I guess this photo doesn't cut it.  After all, it's just a guy and a baby.  Just a simple, sappy, snapshot....

Snapshot?  Did someone say snapshot?  Funny you should bring that up.  Toward a Social Landscape has examples of five contemporary photographers including Friedlander and Winogrand.  From the introduction by Nathan Lyons:
"For a number of years...I have suggested the need for an evaluation of what might be considered authentic photographic forms. One which I have paid particular attention to, and which has undergone extensive research, has been the question of the ‘snapshot'.... interestingly enough the snapshot's significance in modifying our attitude toward picture content has been quite remarkable...[and] has contributed greatly to the visual vocabulary of all graphic media since before the turn of the century."
He goes on to quote Duane Michals: 
‘The only real idea that I have about [my photographs] is that they are essentially snapshots.  For snapshots, I feel, often have an inherent simplicity and directness that I find beautiful.'
Oh, I guess there are snapshots and then there are snapshots.


Let me try another one from The Joy of Life.  Three girls, about 10, engaged in passionate conversation. 

three girls
Copyright Ken Heyman/Woodfin Camp/Time and Life Pictures/Getty Images.  Used with Permission.

Look at their facial expressions; the girl on the left probably had the exact same expression thirty years later when told that plaintiff's counsel rejected the settlement offer and wants to go to court.  The body language follows the facial expressions, the interactions of the three girls adds another layer, and the juxtaposition of this adult behavior to the fact that they are all holding dolls gives yet another dimension, suggesting a profound yet enigmatic meditation on the meaning of childhood and the evanescence of time.  (Whoops, getting carried away again.)

This photograph is by Ken Heyman, who as it turns out actually was shown at MOMA, in 1963.  Apparently that was before he fell off the wagon, and got involved in projects like The World's Family series. From Publisher's Weekly
"this perky but standard-issue quartet of photo-essays explores relations between parents and offspring all over the globe. Mothers ‘wash you and feed you and teach you to cook.' Fathers ‘play songs for you. They take you fishing.' Alongside this sex-role stereotyping, however, is a generally successful bid for a multicultural overview."
And anyhow that was only the second year of the tenure of Mr. Szarkowski as Director of Photography and sometimes museum exhibitions are planned well in advance.

You don't care much for either of those pictures?  Fine, I can live with that.  But do none of the photographs in The Joy of Life have artistic merit?  And if not, why not?  Is it because of their composition, their lighting, their I-don't-know-what?  Or is it their subject matter?

What exactly makes a photo by Frank, Freidlander, Winogrand, or Arbus so much superior to a Stitzer or a Heyman?  The artistic merit of the former is not always perfectly obvious.  Concerning Winogrand, for example; this is by Mike Johnston, in The Empirical Photographer:
"...whom Szarkowski, famously, called ‘the central photographer of his generation' .... Here was a photographer who by the end of his career had barely mastered rudimentary technique, whose idea of a good place to go shoot was the airport, who got emotion into his pictures by recording the anger of the strangers he intruded upon, whose way of introducing graphic dynamism into his pictures in his later years was to always hold the camera at a tilt, and whose notion of a revealing human gesture was a hand feeding peanuts to an elephant trunk..... The single most remarkable thing about his career, in fact-aside from its eventual slouching ruin-is probably the credit and attention Szarkowski extended to him."
(It would be strange, one suspects, to describe a someone who has never mastered
the fundamentals of calculus, doesn't bother to calibrate his instruments, and is notorious for drawing erroneous conclusions as "one of the great experimental physicists of his generation" but I guess that just proves that the rules are different in Science and in Art. Other thoughts
here.)

So can someone please explain to me what kind of people are so enamored of the Chronicles of American Vacuity by the dyspeptic quartet of Frank, Friedlander, Winogrand and Arbus--- that they are willing to cab it up to 53rd Street and fork over twenty bucks for an opportunity to view their pictures?  To return to my original theme, what thoughts and feelings do these pictures invoke?

Oh, I think I know the answer, and it's not a pretty one.

After food, clothing, shelter, and physical security, people have a craving to feel superior to other people.  Intellectuals are smarter, Japanese have their ancient traditions, high school jocks are cooler, and religious people of various faiths are going to heaven (but you're not). 

The people viewing the works of Frank, Friedlander, Winogrand, and Arbus enjoy a smug sense of satisfaction:  first, because they are the kind of sophisticated artistic people that can appreciate that sort of thing; but more importantly, they are not the kind of lonely, sullen, apathetic losers that Robert Frank photographed, let alone the freakish subjects of Diane Arbus.

There is nothing wrong with this warped, bitter, and one-sided picture of America if it were balanced by another point of view...but it is not.  In American Photography, 1890-1965, From the Museum of Modern Art, New York it is only balanced a single photograph: a group of happy teens posing in front of a refrigerator with their ice skating paraphernalia.  This Kodak Advertisement by Ralph Bartholomew, was included (I think) only to evoke a feeling of disdainful irony.  How dare these ignorant and callow youths smirk and simper at the very moment when the dark night of fascism is about to descend?

I am so ignorant, I think that at least a few of the photographs that grace the pages of The Joy of Life are the equals, in every way, to those hanging on the hallowed walls of MOMA.  Their only fault is that they fail to present a uniformly dismal, pessimistic jaundiced view of mankind, and of American culture in particular.  Therefore they do not appeal to the intellectual snobs that have such an intense craving to feel superior to other people.  In other words, they're not "artistic" enough.

So who cares?  I certainly don't care if someone wants to spend his or her free time gazing at "a vast expanse of unmodulated red paint."  But in photography the same aesthetic that informs this worldview spills over into the political. Here is Brian Appel again; the title of his piece is Beauty and ‘the Beats'-- Robert Frank's "The Americans" (1955-56): Poised for New Highs in the Age of Bush?

Frank's camera was a weapon against cultural and political conservatives and he saw it serve as an important avenue for expressing himself politically... and no doubt he was on a mission to persuade and possibly change what he felt were the narrow alternatives offered by the establishment's culture...It was at the height of the cold war -- the conviction of Alger Hiss in 1948, the 1950-54 rise and fall of Senator Joe McCarthy, and the June '54 executions of Julius and Ethel Rosenberg -- fueling paranoia and naïve racism and broadening the gap between rich and poor, blacks and whites, and leaders and followers ...Frank invited Kerouac to write the introduction to his book.  Both men shared the belief that U.S. power had an often corrupting influence; the most important political aim of the ‘Beat' movement was to change the country spiritually and culturally. Kerouac's "true-story novels" and Frank's photographs which were ‘...giddy with images of patriotism and militarism...' helped to name that discontent... 

"Incidentally, while I was researching the conditions surrounding the origins and politics behind "the Beats", the early and mid-50s was starting to look a lot like what's going on today.  America's renewed emphasis on patriotism and increased vigilance since 9/11 with the "spreading of Democracy" and the frequent mentioning of the U.S. "Imperialist stance" is eerily resonant.  Could this have something to do with the increase in prices of Frank's very politically edgy take on America as we approach the 50th anniversary of its execution?"
So once again it's time to call on the brave but pitifully small army of photographers, armed only with their cameras (preferably Leicas) but willing to defy the establishment with all its soul-crushing conformity...