When I began my tenure as a Symphony Space intern two months ago, one event jumped out as I studied the upcoming months’ schedules: Selected Shorts’ Fiction and Photography: Robert Frank at The Metropolitan Museum of Art. After all, photography was one of my concentrations in college, and no one makes it through one photo class (let alone eight) without learning about Frank and his series “The Americans.”
Wednesday night, we braved the packed crosstown bus and made our way to the Metropolitan Museum of Art for a private viewing of the exhibit. The indelible images I’d seen in books or accompanying articles, the noteworthy photographs I clearly remembered from various professors’ slideshows, and the pictures so often imitated that seeing the originals came as a shock: they were all there. I later learned (from Met Photography curator Jeff Rosenheim’s opening remarks back at Symphony Space) that this was the first time in the fifty years since Frank made “The Americans” that he’d allowed all 83 images to be displayed in sequence. Even the extras were interesting: Frank’s slipshod contact sheets and a wall of work-print collages (ah, so that’s why my professors always told me to start with work-prints).
Afterwards, we made our way back to Symphony Space. Following an introduction, including background information on “The Americans” for anyone who missed the viewing, the Selected Shorts presentation began. Ted Marcoux’s reading of an excerpt from Jack Kerouac’s On the Road made me (and likely everyone else in the room) remember why we loved that book when we were eighteen. Continuing the Beat Generation theme, Isaiah Sheffer read Allen Ginsberg’s poem “Sunflower Sutra.” Next up was the work of two lucky young contest winners from The College Group at the Met, whose bite-size 500 word stories fit right in.
After intermission, the program changed pace, to the stories of recent immigrants. Broadway actor Boyd Gaines read Bosnian-born Aleksandar Hemon’s hilarious and intriguing story “Good Living,” about a door-to-door magazine salesman’s trials living “the American dream.” Closing out the evening was “The Thing Around Your Neck,” by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie. Her affecting portrayal of a young Nigerian immigrant’s experience living, working, and falling in and out of love in New England was vividly performed by actress Condola Rashad. Let’s just say my only question now is whether to order both authors’ collections online, or head down to The Strand.