America and Other Myths: Photographs by Robert Frank and Todd Webb, 1955


by Lisa Volpe (Author), Susan Straight (Afterword)

In 1955 two photographers were awarded grants from the John Simon Guggenheim Foundation to embark on trips across the United States. Robert Frank (1924–2019) drove coast to coast, photographing the highways, bars, and people that formed the basis for his widely admired publication The Americans (1958). Todd Webb (1905–2000) walked, boated, and biked across the country, searching for “vanishing Americana and what is taking its place.”

Unaware of each other’s work, the photographers produced strikingly similar images of the highway, parades, and dim, smoky barrooms. Yet, their distinct modes of travel are reflected in their particular artistic styles. Frank’s grainy, off-kilter photographs revealed many inequities of American life, while Webb’s carefully composed images embraced clear detail and celebrated the individual oddities of Americans and their locales.

This revelatory book is the first to publish Webb’s 1955 photographs and connects these parallel projects for the first time. More than one hundred images accompany text illuminating Frank’s and Webb’s different perspectives and approaches to similar subjects and places; the misconceptions surrounding Frank’s iconic work and Webb’s relatively unknown series; and the place of the road trip in shaping American culture at midcentury.

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