by David M. Roth
Apart from size, the biggest difference between Looking In and the Cantor exhibit is how the pictures are presented. Looking In displayed them in the order that Frank laid them out in the book. The sequencing was largely intuitive, and it was considered radical. It relied on linkages between formal compositional devices (horizontal line-ups of people, tilted horizon lines, glare, murk, blur, grainy textures) that observant viewers could use to connect disparate events, subjects and locales. For this show, Peter Galassi, MOMA’s former chief curator of photography, organized the images thematically. That might seem heretical to some given the way Frank’s methodology has been lionized; but in truth, Galassi’s juxtapositions give us a clearer view of what Frank saw and how he chose to present it.
Convention: a goddess among the hoi polloi. At the same event, Frank captured a close-up of Bobby Kennedy being cajoled by a heavy-set older man, one of many such shots Frank made to show the universal language of influence peddling. These, and just about every other grouping, demonstrate how Galassi’s thematic organization brings into sharper focus the pictorial devices Frank used repeatedly throughout this period.
culture. Frank did much the same thing with the American flag. He showed how it could be invoked to bolster almost any conviction: patriotism, labor activism and religious fundamentalism. His absorption of Walker’s lessons about how signs could be transformed into symbols couldn’t have been more complete.