Robert Frank, Swiss photographer and naturalised American. Born in 1924. Most famous for his 1955 photo essay ‘The Americans’.
His his fresh and skeptical outsider’s view of American society was funded by a Guggenheim memorial foundation grant . He took 28,000 photographs over 9 months of his trans American trip of which he used 83 in the final book. The forward was written by beat writer Jack Kerouac who made a similar journey as recounted in ‘On the road’. The photos are harsh and technically poor, and I guess were not well received in America because they showed a society that many in America would not like to admit existed.
However, one of his photos I like was part of a series taken in London in 1952, and here it is.
I would like to have titled this ’The road to Dartmoor prison” but unfortunately I was looking the other way. Dartmoor prison, a couple of miles behind me, in Princetown, Devon was built between 1806 and 1809 to house prisoners taken during the Napoleonic war, then in the war of 1812 between the Unites States and Britain. American prisoners of war were also kept there.From the spring of 1813 until March 1815 about 6500 American sailors were imprisoned at Dartmoor.
While the British were in charge, the prisoners created their own governance and culture. They had courts which meted out punishments, there was an in-prison market, a theater and a gambling room. Many of the prisoners were black Americans.
Behind the prison is a fine memorial to 271 American prisoners who died while in prison.