The cover image for the U.S. edition of “The Americans,” Robert Frank’s epochal book, spoke volumes about the state of the nation in the mid-1950s. The tightly-cropped photo shows passengers in the windows of a New Orleans trolley assuming their place in the social order of the Jim Crow South — progressing from a black woman in the rear to white children and adults up front (slide 4).
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The online guide is a first for a photographer in the National Gallery collection. Mr. Frank’s work was selected because it constitutes the museum’s largest and most complex holding by a single photographer.