“I love to watch the most banal things,” Frank has said, “things that move.” Many of the pictures - even those taken from a stable, fixed spot - look like they were taken on the move. America was becoming a place to be seen from a car, a country that could be seen without stopping. In Frank’s pictures, it is as if the camera only just succeeded in stopping time…The sense of being constantly in motion contributes to what has often been remarked on: the grim, bleak quality of Frank’s pictures. But there is also a snatched, self-cancelling lyricism, a grainy yearning that never quite has the opportunity to manifest itself fully. Articulating something similar, John Cheever confided to his journal that “this nomadic, roadside civilisation was the creation of the loneliest travellers the world has ever seen”. Unlike Kerouac - who considered Frank’s view of urinals “the loneliest picture ever made” - Cheever did not have Frank or any other photographer in mind when he wrote this; but his “vision of the waywardness of man and the blessings of velocity” serves as a sidelong commentary on a world glimpsed and preserved in The Americans.
- from The Ongoing Moment by Geoff Dyer