Flag Day

Thirteen equal horizontal stripes of red (top and bottom) alternating with white, with a blue rectangle in the canton bearing fifty small white, five pointed stars arranged in nine offset horizontal rows of six stars (top and bottom) alternating with rows of five stars.
.The American photobook that features the American flag on the cover and the word “American” in the title is the ultimate in cliché.

The American flag was invented in 1777 and has been the most obvious of American symbols ever since. You are not allowed to burn it or tread on it or abuse it in any way.  You must never dip it to a person or even to a thing. Dry cleaners will often offer to dry clean your American flag free of charge. Even though the majority of the USA flags are made elsewhere these days there is nothing more symbolically American than the American flag.  Well, it is a FLAG right? In fact there are a lot of rules and federal laws pertaining to the flag.  The Flag code: http://www.usflag.org/uscode36.html

The American Flag through the eyes of Robert Frank:

Robert Frank’s The Americans never ceases to amaze me. The way he uses the American flag in his imagery is always clever, insightful and brilliant.


Looking In : Roberts Frank’s The Americans – Expanded Edition (Steidl 2009)
TR140.F73 . G74 2009

This is the one to have. Book snobs and book fetishists may beg to differ – there are more special and expensive editions – but this is the most important volume for the photographer and/or the scholar (in my opinion humble). Produced fifty years after the original American edition and fifty-one years after that rather odd and pseudo-sociological French edition (without Jack), this is the book that contains all the amazing additional extras.  The additional materials which include: the entirety of Robert Frank’s contact sheets from the project, variant croppings of the first and subsequent editions of the book, a map and chronology of the project, letters and archival materials by Robert Frank, Walker Evans and Jack Kerouac relating to the grant, the project and the publication.  For me this is the best, most interesting and dare I say definitive edition.

The variety in the printing of the various editions of ‘The Americans’ is much more pronounced than one would imagine. If you ever get a chance you should probably come into the ICP library and take a look and view (compare and contrast) the images in the different volumes in person.

About matthew carson

Librarian & Archivist at the International Center of Photography
This entry was posted in Unpacking the collection and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Flag Day

  1. Aw, cmon…Lauri Lyons’ Flag: An American Story TR680 .L96 2001 is the descendant of The Americans. AND she is ICP faculty!

    • matthewpcarson says:

      I think the true descendant of the Americans is perhaps the book America by Zoe Strauss. I wish I had included that one – it is bloody gorgeous. TR820.5.U6 .S76 2008

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