Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Robert Frank's Elevator Girl, After All These Years

NPR recently aired a fascinating piece about Robert Frank's iconic image of the "elevator girl" working in a Miami Beach hotel in the late 1950's. Sharon Collins recently came forward affirming that the young girl, whose distant and melancholic gaze helped fortify Frank's vision of America, is indeed a younger incarnation of herself. The NPR story provided this interesting piece of historical context:

"Elevator - Miami Beach"
© Robert Frank

"A half-century later, Collins poses in a recreation of the scene"
© Ian Padgham/SFMOMA

"At the time, her name was Sharon Goldstein, growing up in Miami Beach. At fifteen, she got a summer job as an elevator girl at the Sherry Frontenac Hotel. She says the hotel was always full of tourists, and many of them had cameras. Although she wishes she remembers this particular tourist, she doesn't. But she pieced together what happened by looking at Frank's contact sheet.

"Robert Frank took about four photos of me without a flash in the elevator. I didn't know he was taking them. And then when the elevator emptied of its 'blurred demons,'" she says, "he asked me to turn around and smile at the camera. And I flashed a smile, put my hands on my hips. I hammed it up for about eight or ten frames."