I See Nothing - A Reflection of Sorrow and the Allure of Nothingness
Sorrow is deeply complicated. It can live inside you for a long time and it will fight you for attention, for your breath, your esteem and for your very being. It's an enduring struggle of all mankind, it makes us want to fight for what we want, for what we need despite it all, despite the overwhelming feeling to give up. And then again sometimes we do.
Frank Marshal's photographs shine a sort of light onto this innate sense of fight,despite it all, this sense of sorrow and of giving up-his photographs are a subtle, palpable narrative that transcends the moment, becoming visceral and taking on new meaning.
A photograph of two tall pine trees that seem to be barely holding on in front of a long ago closed motel with the most unwelcoming entryway, holds the viewer in it's gnarl of conflict - a photographic masterpiece showing how the past meets the present, meeting its inevitable end.
Mostly devoid of people, Frank's landscapes describe for us a place and time that we might otherwise have passed by thinking little of it, but he stops us and beckons our eye to indulge in seeing the complexities of this nothingness he has place in our path. The crossroads and juxtapositions of small towns, of religion, of hope and hopelessness, and the icons and symbolism of an era gone by - without the usual crutch of nostalgia or politics, eliminating all of this noise from his photographs, they are at once sad and quiet.
Like the great photographer Robert Frank, who brought us The Americans*, by traveling cross country in the 50's Robert Frank brought us, the viewer, to a place not seen before, to an inward place, to the soul of America through the most indelible, sad and poetic imagery.
" Robert Frank, Swiss, unobtrusive, nice, with that little camera that he raises and snaps with one hand he sucked a sad poem right out of America onto film, taking rank among the tragic ports of the world." Jack Kerouac**
From 2010 to 2020, Frank Marshal brings us to a different kind of America, he raises his 6x7 to his eye and clicks, one and done, (one of his favorite phrases). His work brings us to a place we haven't seen before, his images are not exactly poetry but they're poetic at the same time. From upstate New York and southbound to the Carolinas, Texas and Georgia were he finds his subject, Frank shows us a landscape of his America that is lost and losing it's place in the world. It is this sense of deep sorrow that resonates so powerfully.
Frank shows us a kind of askew underbelly, that thing that is almost gone - that place we pass by everyday - its familiarity draws us in. It's over there, just around the corner, that house in front of that water tower, that decaying transatlantic cruise ship in the harbor stripped of its grandness, that neatly groomed trailer park, that confederate flag trying to hide through those leafless trees, that country church next to the Family Dollar store, that boarded up shop window, that Oldsmobile with it's faded red paint, that Mobil sign, that prefab house parked on the side of the road, that seemingly endless wooden fence to nowhere, that pile of discarded cement blocks neatly swept all around them, behind the bowling alley, that lonely road side dinner at dusk, all showing us something we know well - but we haven't seen it like this - instead, they have become succinct reminders in there symbolism.
Karen Hill, Artist and Photographer
*The Americans, Photographs by Robert Frank, 1958
**The American, Photographs by Robert Frank from the Introduction by Jack Kerouac, 1958