American

Documentary Film

In 1955 a 31-year-old Swiss photographer named Robert Frank got in his car and drove across America with a miniature camera. He was starting a project he called a "visual study of a civilization" that was "only partly documentary in nature: one of its aims is more artistic than the word documentary implies."

Today his work is a legendary piece of photographic history. It opened the door for a new way of taking photos. One that favored authentic content over technical perfection. By using a small camera and shooting people who weren't posing or even necessarily aware of his presence, Robert Frank was capturing reality in a way no one had before.

54 years later, digital video cameras had reached a similar technological threshold. High-quality images could be recorded with a professional camera, but a compact consumer video camera was adequate to capture a moment without intimidating a subject.

So in 2009, I got in a car with a miniature consumer video camera I affectionately called "The Dad Cam" and started driving. All told I drove over 25,000 miles for up to 3 months at a time, mostly with my good friend Spencer Silva. We slept on the street, met many kind and intelligent people, had a few guns pointed at us and in the end, walked away with film which is a visual study of America that is more artistic than the word documentary implies.