Robert Frank, “Sick of Goodby’s,” 1978, silver gelatin print
I was looking at Robert Frank’s photograph “Sick of Goodby’s” in his book The Lines of My Hand. Moments before I had been listening to a Johnny Cash song called “I Wish I Was Crazy Again.” Then I thought of the goodbyes in the book to old friends caught once and for all and never again to be seen in life, and I was struck by the intensity of the sadness of life and its redeeming qualities as reflected in these moving photos. With Johnny Cash as well, the desire to see it all again, to go out one more time into the wild flame only to be burned up forever and never be seen again except in these farewell photos, is moving beyond description. The photos speak of an acceptance of things as they are. the inevitable death of us all and the last photo – that last unposed shot to remind us of our friends, of our loss of the times we had in a past captured only on film in black and white. Frank has been there, and seen that, and recorded it with such subtlety that we only look in awe, our own hearts beating with the memories of lost partners and songs.
To wish for the crazy times one last time and freeze it in the memory of a camera is the least a great artist can do. Robert Frank is a great democrat. We’re all in these photos. Paint dripping from a mirror like blood. I’m sick of goodbyes. And aren’t we all, but it’s nice to see it said. LOU REED
Read more reflections on Frank’s photography by Ed Ruscha, Mary Ellen Mark, Liz Jobey, Mark Hayworth-Booth, and Frank himself here.