Great story about Robert Frank while on the road shooting The Americans

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pentaxuser

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"After stopping the car I noticed that he was shabbily dressed, needed a shave and a haircut, also a bath. Subject talked with a foreign accent."

To be fair all countries wishing to spy on another country,always made sure that their spies could be recognised that way:D

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Sirius Glass

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Come on we all see on television shows that the killer is usually a scruffy portrait photographer that murdered the beautiful young woman. Now go look in the mirror and be wary of the police.
 

pentaxuser

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I'll bet it hasn't changed much down there, eh?
When I saw this and I admit I might have mis-interpreted your meaning about "down there", I instantly recalled the Bilko episode where he had found a new army recruit from the Deep South who had the ability to throw a stone around a tree trunk in order to kill a squirrel to have for the family's supper. He persuades this innocent lad to meet a board of directors( of the N.Y. Yankees but not revealed) who are interested in seeing this person's throwing ability as a new pitcher.

The lad is very keen to demonstrate his skills until Bilko carelessly mentions the meeting is at the Yankee Stadium :D

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momus

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As a Southerner, I can state that the story has nothing to do w/ the South, I'm not sure why people think that. It reflects a national mood at the time, and someone looking like the photographer would invite suspicion even today in any area of the U.S. It's just the culture of the police, which is a dangerous culture that needs to be properly explored. What happened to Frank still happens today, every day, especially to Black and Brown people.
 

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Also in 1955 people were not sure Hitler and other Nazis were really dead. We know now there were Nazis living in South America at the time. And we were in a period of low immigration, so any foreigners raised suspicion. People now seem willing to excuse almost anything, but regionalist bigotry still survives.
 

takilmaboxer

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Bigotry is an intrinsic human characteristic. The American South has no monopoly on it but they get scapegoated because of slavery. And Arizona just passed a law making it illegal to photograph police activity from closer than 8 feet. So no, nothing has changed because human nature is immutable.
 

Tel

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We all know that all photographers in public spaces are criminals or terrorists. New Jersey Transit ran a campaign recently (lots of posters in stations) showing a young man in a black hoodie with an ugly big DSLR taking a photo of a security camera, that urged riders to report "suspicious activity". I wasn't personally offended because the guy was shown holding a DSLR not a film camera (how could a film shooter be a terrorist I ask) but I did begin to refrain from taking my camera out while in a station or on a train. To be fair, I was never challenged by a railway employee; in fact, one time I was out by the tracks with my 8x10 Korona shooting an NJT train passing by and all that happened was the engineer blew the horn and waved at me. A friend was challenged once for shooting on the platform, but he wisely complied and didn't choose to argue the point. But another friend, who used to do location work for film companies, knew that the railroads only own the land within 12 feet of the tracks (the local municipalities own the stations) and anyhow NJT doesn't even own the rails (Amtrak does).
 
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Also in 1955 people were not sure Hitler and other Nazis were really dead. We know now there were Nazis living in South America at the time. And we were in a period of low immigration, so any foreigners raised suspicion. People now seem willing to excuse almost anything, but regionalist bigotry still survives.

The Cold War with the Soviet Union was strong at the time. People were seeing Communist spies around every corner. Eastern European accents sounded suspicious. Remember those countries were behind the Iron Curtain.
 
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We all know that all photographers in public spaces are criminals or terrorists. New Jersey Transit ran a campaign recently (lots of posters in stations) showing a young man in a black hoodie with an ugly big DSLR taking a photo of a security camera, that urged riders to report "suspicious activity". I wasn't personally offended because the guy was shown holding a DSLR not a film camera (how could a film shooter be a terrorist I ask) but I did begin to refrain from taking my camera out while in a station or on a train. To be fair, I was never challenged by a railway employee; in fact, one time I was out by the tracks with my 8x10 Korona shooting an NJT train passing by and all that happened was the engineer blew the horn and waved at me. A friend was challenged once for shooting on the platform, but he wisely complied and didn't choose to argue the point. But another friend, who used to do location work for film companies, knew that the railroads only own the land within 12 feet of the tracks (the local municipalities own the stations) and anyhow NJT doesn't even own the rails (Amtrak does).

Sometimes safety issues such as using a big camera, especially with a tripod are not allowed. People have to walk around you, could trip, and fall onto the tracks. It's an issue on crowded streets in big cities as well. We have a right to take pictures in public but not if it's dangerous to others.
 

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The Cold War with the Soviet Union was strong at the time. People were seeing Communist spies around every corner. Eastern European accents sounded suspicious. Remember those countries were behind the Iron Curtain.

Switzerland....where Robert Frank was from was most decidedly not behind the Iron Curtain....nor Eastern European.
 

Alex Benjamin

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Switzerland....where Robert Frank was from was most decidedly not behind the Iron Curtain....nor Eastern European.

Frank was from Zürich, so German-speaking Switzerland. When he did his travels for The Americans, he hadn't been here long, so probably spoke with a much stronger German accent than later in life (you still hear a bit of it in late interviews). Mistaking him for an East German communist spy would not have been out of context in these paranoid times.
 

GregY

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Agreed.... not only foreigners....but the suspicion of any non-locals.... "you're not from around here, are you?" is a common tale of travellers in the USA.
 
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Sirius Glass

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Frank was from Zürich, so German-speaking Switzerland. When he did his travels for The Americans, he hadn't been here long, so probably spoke with a much stronger German accent than later in life (you still hear a bit of it in late interviews). Mistaking him for an East German communist spy would not have been out of context in these paranoid times.

German accents can be interesting, especially in movies. For example in the US version of "The Longest Day" all Germans speak English with a very heavy German accent and the French, Poles, ... all speak English without and accent, some in subtitles. When I saw the same movie years later on television on French in Paris the same German actors spoke flawless French without a German accent. The same experience in Spain with the same German actors speaking Spanish without a German accent. Very confusing.
 

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Sorry folks. Sure, racism is everywhere, but the fact of the matter is that "the South" is generally more hostile to people of color. Look at the statistics, and news, etc. If you live there and don't want to be cast with the bad lots, do something about it.

My brother, who was an FBI agent at the time, drove from Atlanta to Alabama for a training at one point, and yes, he was stopped by a state police. Nothing happened since he had id et al, but there are reasons why I have not taken the great American road trips
 

juan

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Obvious regionalist bigotry on your part. What happened when three white idiots in pickup trucks ran down a black man and shot him to death? White prosecutors, a white judge, and eleven white members of the jury convicted them of murder and gave them life sentences without parole. The federal prosecutors and a jury convicted them of federal crimes and sentencing come late this month. This isn’t 1920. Things are done about it.
 
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Sorry folks. Sure, racism is everywhere, but the fact of the matter is that "the South" is generally more hostile to people of color. Look at the statistics, and news, etc. If you live there and don't want to be cast with the bad lots, do something about it.

My brother, who was an FBI agent at the time, drove from Atlanta to Alabama for a training at one point, and yes, he was stopped by a state police. Nothing happened since he had id et al, but there are reasons why I have not taken the great American road trips

I'm white and have been stopped by the state police - in a number of northern jurisdictions. Damn speeding tickets. I've also gotten stopped where I live for talking on my cellphone a couple of times and driving without a seat belt on. Unfortunately, I didn't have a police ID so I got tickets. Of course, if your brother was stopped because of his race, that's not acceptable. Why was he stopped? Maybe your brother got treated better than the rest of us because of his FBI affiliation.

In any case, America is a big place and the American Road Trip can be taken in hundreds of places without fear. As a photographer, especially, you ought to go on these trips.

And don't speed. 😇
 

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I still have my dog-eared copy of The Americans. The pages have yellowed and the binding is disintegrating after 52 years but it still gives me inspiration.
 

Sirius Glass

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Sorry folks. Sure, racism is everywhere, but the fact of the matter is that "the South" is generally more hostile to people of color. Look at the statistics, and news, etc. If you live there and don't want to be cast with the bad lots, do something about it.

My brother, who was an FBI agent at the time, drove from Atlanta to Alabama for a training at one point, and yes, he was stopped by a state police. Nothing happened since he had id et al, but there are reasons why I have not taken the great American road trips

Even in the more liberal area of Northern Virginia when I worked there from 2009 to 2014 too often when I went to lunch with my black supervisor, who was dressed in a suit and tie, and I who, was dressed Southern California casual, would start walking across the parking lot at the restaurant, and I would see the look of hate in some of the white people. They would never say anything but the body language and facial expressions said it all ====> "Who does that black @#$@# think he is?" We would talk about it when I mentioned it. I saw that often in northern Virginia but very rarely on the Northern US or Southern California.

Anyone who thinks that they do not need to read Critical Race Theory and The 1619 Project is exactly the people who should read those books with their minds well open instead of the usual closed mindset.
 

Sirius Glass

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Even in the more liberal area of Northern Virginia when I worked there from 2009 to 2014 too often when I went to lunch with my black supervisor, who was dressed in a suit and tie, and I who, was dressed Southern California casual, would start walking across the parking lot at the restaurant, and I would see the look of hate in some of the white people. They would never say anything but the body language and facial expressions said it all ====> "Who does that black @#$@# think he is?" We would talk about it when I mentioned it. I saw that often in northern Virginia but very rarely on the Northern US or Southern California.

Anyone who thinks that they do not need to read Critical Race Theory and The 1619 Project is exactly the people who should read those books with their minds well open instead of the usual closed mindset.

Northern Virginia? The suburb of DC and not the South at all? They probably hated your Southern California casual.

I found the interracial attitudes appeared much better in New Orleans.
 
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