From LENS at The New York Times:
“One of the most consequential images in Robert Frank’s “The Americans” is a raw, cinematic photograph of a black couple in San Francisco in 1956. Approaching them from behind as the pair relaxed on a grassy hill overlooking the city, Mr. Frank disrupted their solitude. Startled, they turned to acknowledge him. The woman was annoyed. The man crouched protectively. As his eyes locked on the photographer, his expression hardened into a scowl. The couple seemed determined to protect themselves and their dignity.
On one level, as Mr. Frank himself has said, the photo demonstrates the ease with which the camera can invade the privacy of others, portraying “how it feels to be a photographer and suddenly be confronted with that look of, ‘You bastard, what are you doing!’ ” But the photograph is also racially fraught. Rather than a neutral observer, Mr. Frank looms over them, an active, unseen participant — a surrogate for the intimidating whiteness that shadowed the lives of black Americans, no matter how liberal their environment.”