SAM: Robert Frank's New York City

Each time I've walked through SAM over the past month, I've stopped by this trio (New York City, 1955) to pay my respects. Robert Frank, a Swiss photographer and experimental filmmaker, took their picture as he traveled around the States, compiling work for his 1958 book, The Americans. I love how Frank catches these three at their jauntiest, seducing the camera whether or not it knows it wants to be seduced, yet he notices the sad shyness behind their cocked hips and plucked eyebrows. I love them because they're the tough guys I looked up to at 18—the ones who never needed to study queer theory to discover the power of genderfuck. They dare the photographer to treat them like sociological specimens, and defy the viewer to heckle them. They even defy the curators who have hung them in such illustrious company, next to photos of circus freaks and retarded people. I always smile hello, and they give me a Please, Mary, what you looking at? stare and send me on my way.

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