Robert Frank

Detroit, River Rouge Plant

Not on view



Gelatin silver print

Sheet: 15 7/8 × 19 13/16in. (40.3 × 50.3 cm) Image: 14 1/16 × 18 3/4in. (35.7 × 47.6 cm)

Accession number

Credit line
Whitney Museum of American Art, New York; gift of the artist

Rights and reproductions
© Robert Frank, courtesy Pace/MacGill Gallery, New York


Detroit, River Rouge Plant is one of hundreds of images taken during a cross-country road trip on which Robert Frank embarked in 1955 and which culminated in his landmark book, The Americans (1959). The project was funded by a Guggenheim Fellowship for which he created an “observation and record of what one naturalized American finds to see in the United States.” After stops in Pennsylvania and Ohio, Frank arrived in Michigan, where he received permission to shoot inside the Ford Motor Company’s massive River Rouge Plant near Detroit. Unlike his photographs of the workers inside the factory—and unlike many of the images in The Americans, which capture transience and loneliness with an unromantic realism—Detroit River Rouge Plant is preternaturally still, even serene. Two rows of gleaming cars, lined up near a soaring canopy of steel beams, suggest the pristine order and efficiency of American industry. With their various contours, grillwork, and tailfins, they take on a biomorphic quality, seeming to possess individual personalities.