Who Is Considered an American?

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Who is considered an American? What does mean to be an American? It is perhaps unsurprising that the traits Americans like to ascribe to themselves are somewhat different from those that foreigners tend to ascribe to them. Indeed, if you ask an American to describe his fellow citizens, he is likely to tell you that they are affable, hardworking and patriotic people; but if you ask some foreign commentators or observers such as a prominent photographer from Switzerland, Robert Frank, he will have a different point of view towards the idea of an American.

Robert Frank, a Jewish photographer, was born in Switzerland. He plays an important role in the photography field because of his most famous work The Americans, which was published in 1958. His unique and fresh outsider’s view of American society received criticism in the U.S when the book first came out. The reason is that the Frank’s photographs are unlike other photographic essays, which portray Americans in a positive way instead it demonstrates the idea of Americans by taking the violent and desolated photos. Criticism aside, in order to make a fair judgment, we will analyze specifically the photos from the Frank exhibit, at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York. The exhibition features all 83 photos picked by Frank from the 28,000 shots, which he took during a road trip between 1955 and 1956. The work is divided into four sections. The first section shows different comparisons such as politicians to civilians, White to blacl,and rich to poor. The first photo in the first section titled “Parade—Hoboken, New Jersey” shows two windows: above them is an American flag and two women look out from the window. It is definitely not showing a parade, but rather Frank ironically portrays the idea of sadness and isolation. In the second section, Frank is more focused on the social and economical inequality. For example, the photograph in the second section titled “Trolley— New Orleans” shows the passengers in the...
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