Robert Frank and Todd Webb: Across America, 1955

Feb. 10, 2024 to
Jul. 31, 2024
Organized by the Museum of Fine Art, Houston, this exhibition presents photographs that Robert Frank and Todd Webb created separately during their 1955 Guggenheim Foundation Fellowships. Though the men had no knowledge of each other at the time, their strikingly similar images revealed popular cultural trends and shared ideologies that challenged the idealistic purity of the “American Roadtrip.”

In 1955, two photographers received fellowships from the Guggenheim Foundation for U.S. survey projects: Robert Frank and Todd Webb. Frank’s cross-country trip by car would result in the celebrated book The Americans. Webb was awarded a grant to walk, boat, and bike across the United States to depict “vanishing Americana, and the way of life that is taking its place.”

Though the men had no knowledge of each other during the application process, both secured a recommendation from famed photographer Walker Evans, and both completed their cross-country surveys—though in radically different ways. Frank’s resulting work became a landmark text in the history of photography, and Webb’s project remains almost entirely unknown. Robert Frank and Todd Webb: Across America, 1955 brings together both 1955 projects for the first time.

In some instances, Frank’s and Webb’s images are strikingly similar—both men took photographs of the highway and dim, smoky barrooms. Because each was unaware of the other’s work, these similarities can be traced to popular cultural trends and shared ideologies. Both men, after all, engaged in projects that challenged the idealistic purity of the “American Roadtrip.” Radically different photographs made in the same location reveal the photographers’ diverse perspectives and approaches.

Frank’s grainy, off-kilter style was matched with his harsh examination of the darker side of American life. An immigrant born in Switzerland, Frank (1924–2019) harnessed his outsider perspective. The tender, carefully composed images created by Detroit-born Webb (1905–2000) celebrated the individual oddities of the American way of life. Ultimately, comparing the work of these photographers reveals the complexity of their projects and the impossibility of capturing a singular vision of “America.”

This exhibition is organized by the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston. The Addison’s presentation is generously supported by the Mollie Bennett Lupe and Garland M. Lasater Exhibition Fund.

On view on Level 1, Galleries 102–105

Exhibition Images

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VIDEO

Lisa Volpe, Curator of Photography at the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, discusses the photographic projects that Frank and Webb created during travels through the United States in 1955. This program was organized with Andover’s Memorial Hall Library. (Recorded on February 27, 2024)

Press Release

Robert Frank and Todd Webb: Across America, 1955 Brings Together Simultaneous U.S. Survey Projects by the Photographers

ADDISON WINTER EXHIBITIONS PRESS RELEASE

The American Experience will be Explored through Photography in Two Exhibitions at the Addison

In the News

The Andovers, Snapshots of America, by Terry Date, April 2024

What Will You Remember?, America & Other Myths by Elin Spring, 3/27/24

Boston Globe, On the road with Robert Frank and Todd Webb by Mark Feeney, 2/15/24

Virtual Tour

 by Lightshed Photography Studio

Robert Frank and Todd Webb: Across America, 1955

Matterport 3D Showcase. 3 Chapel Ave, Andover, MA, 01810, US.

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Bartlett H. Hayes Prize Recipients

2023:

Reggie Burrows Hodges

Exhibition | Residency | Publication | Acquisition

2025:

to be announced soon!

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