REVIEW: Robert Frank – “Park/Sleep” (2013)

The ASX Team

July 10, 2013

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From Park / Sleep by Robert Frank published by Steidl

Robert Frank – Park/Sleep – REVIEW

By Fanny Landstrom for ASX, July 2013

Many of us carry a notebook in our pocket, or an iPhone at least, where we might collect our thoughts, photographs, and pieces of reading that we pick up along the way. Memories and memorabilia. For most of us these will stay as personal treasures – tiny pieces to be vowen into what we make of ourselves.

Park/Sleep (2013) by Robert Frank is the third in his series of visual diaries after Tal Uf Tal Ab (2012) and You Would (2012) published by Steidl. Same format, layout, and style – different cover and content. A humble collection of visual pieces from his familiar surroundings. Images of his friends and family, from his homes and studio in Canada, Switzerland, and America. Scenic landscapes and banal objects. Poems, fragments of conversations, and thoughts. Bits of his life stitched and stuck together to be shown to us, the viewers and readers.

On the mid spread a photograph of an empty park titled PARK SLEEP are placed on the right hand side of the spread – and a photograph taken inside of a vehicle in what seems to be the same space are placed to the left of the spread. Underneath we can read:


I suppose my photographs are of things I don’t want to forget

My instinct tells me that they are important

They are quiet

They demand no attention

They are not empty

Park/Sleep seems to be an attempt to understand one’s life through puzzling together. To collect, reflect, and manifest it visually. Each photograph in the book are freed from its singular purpose – pieces of the poetry – of the rythmic sequencing of images and text that together builds up to the incoherent, lively, and partly mundane thing we call our history, that are part of what we call ourselves. Snapshots and collages. Black-and-white, colour, and sepia. Formalistic mayhem and a mission to form, not to forget, and to create ones story.

They are quiet, meaningless maybe, of no worldly significance perhaps. But there’s a tangible thread throughout the book of something very delicate, of somebody’s choice of precious moments of importance. It is a fragmented sneak peek into a person’s inner reasoning and it is very personal. That’s where its strength lies – it is intimate, private, and interesting.

This is not a work easy to pin down to a existing genre – it is not a conceptually layered work full of hidden meanings and implications, a traditionally laid out work with a linear narrative creating a story of some sort, or documentary realism portraying reality from a certain angle, perspective, or attempting to be objective. Since it is not focused on technical or stylistic perfection (whatever that might be), the work emphasize the feeling. You feel the nearness to his chosen subjects and objects – the photographs are his life, his past and his present. This series of books is another of Robert Frank’s explorations of photography as a medium. Being one of the world’s most well-known and appraised photographers for three decades one might think that you would be a little, ”oh, here we go, yet another book…”, but no, this is still fun, fresh, and very intriguing.

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416UBS2S46L._SY300_ (Custom)Robert Frank, Park/Sleep
Steidl (first edition), 2013
Text and images by Robert Frank

Fanny Landström writes for ASX in the UK and is currently studying Photographic Arts at the University of Westminster, London.  An incurably curious reader, writer, and viewer.


(All rights reserved. Text @ Fanny Landstrom and ASX. Images @ Robert Frank and courtesy of Steidl)