Sharon Collins looks on in a 1955 photograph shot by photographer Robert Frank. Frank never got Collins’ information after their brief encounter and the identity of the young girl seemed lost until Collins found herself in San Francisco’s Museum of Modern Art ten years ago.
“I stood in front of this particular photograph for probably a full five minutes, not knowing why I was staring at it,” she says. “And then it really dawned on me that the girl in the picture was me.”
Frank’s portrait of Collins was one of many collected for his 1958 work, The Americans — a highly influential book in post-war American photography. The 1959 U.S. edition was published with an introduction by Frank’s good friend, writer Jack Kerouac.
“He saw in me something that most people didn’t see,” says Collins, now 69. “I have a big smile and a big laugh, and I’m usually pretty funny. So people see one thing in me. And I suspect Robert Frank and Jack Kerouac saw something that was deeper. That only people who were really close to me can see. It’s not necessarily loneliness, it’s … dreaminess.”