Finding an opportunity in news photography to pay homage to Robert Frank

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A while back there was a story in the New York Times titled “The Rohingya Who Made It to Chicago,” about a group of Muslims who had been persecuted in Myanmar finding a new home in Chicago. One of the photographs accompanying the story, by photographer Ali Lapetina, grabbed my attention. The image below shows a handful of people on a school bus leaving a rally in Chicago which had been organized in support of the Rohingya people. The way the image is framed, the position of the grim-looking woman in the 2nd window from left, the girl with her hand outside the window … it all had a very familiar feel: it seems like a direct homage to one of Robert Frank’s most-famous photographs. Scroll down for more …

photograph of Rohingya people leaving a rally on a school bus

Now take a look at Robert Frank’s photograph “Trolley – New Orleans,” 1955, from his seminal book The Americans, which featured photographs taken by the artist in the mid-1950s as he traveled across the U.S. on a Guggenheim fellowship. In his photograph, there is also a grim-looking woman in the 2nd window from left, and a young boy also looking straight out with a hand outside the window. It is also a tightly-framed image, with both images cropped in a similar way.

Trolley New Orleans by Robert Frank

I would be curious to know if Lapetina just happened upon a similar scene and captured it, surely realizing the similarities, or if she might have suggested to the girl to put her hand out the window? The similarities are so striking that it just seems amazing to think it could match up this way. Actually, one more similarity that I just noticed is the fact that there are two kids in the center-most window in both pictures. However it was achieved, I appreciate the strong image that Lapetina created to illustrate the NY Times story at the same time paying homage to one of the most acclaimed photographers of the 20th century, Robert Frank. Mr. Frank’s work is represented by Pace/MacGill Gallery in New York City. Ali Lapetina is an independent photographer based in Detroit.

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