Sounds of the Americans is an experiment in sound and photography using the contents of Robert Frank's photo book The Americans" as a foundation for exploration. The audio tracks are the result of converting the photographs to sound via computer software outlined below. Similarly, the images have been created by loading the sounds into a spectrograph application which allows one to recreate the original photographs in a highly altered form.

About This Site's Creator

Photographer, Andrew Emond is originally from Toronto, Canada, where he studied multimedia design. Since 2004, his work has focused primarily on the unseen or underrepresented aspects of the built environment including sewer systems and vacated industrial facilities. His photography and related side-projects have been published in numerous publications around the world and featured on such websites as Time.com, Gizmodo.com and Kottke.org. His first book, Elevator Alley, co-created with writer Michael Cook, was published in 2010 by Furnace Press. More recently, his work has begun to explore the various means in which technology can be used to transform existing photography.

Other projects and sites: www.andrewemond.com | Mastergram | Under Montreal
Contact: andrew.emond@gmail.com or through Twitter via @AndrewEmond

About Robert Frank

Born in 1924 in Zurich, Switzerland, photographer/filmmaker Robert Frank is best known for his seminal publication Robert Frank's photo book The Americans. First published in 1958, containing 83 photographs was unlike almost any other photography book ever produced. Capturing a side of post-war America that was both provocative and poignant, Frank's interpretation of America painted a picture of a country that many were unwilling to face at the time. Using an unflinching and unsentimental eye, The Americans depicted a country in the midst of losing its soul as a result of racism, consumerism, power imbalances and isolation. Through methodical sequencing and juxtapositions, the book redefined how photography could be viewed by using a complex, often ambiguous path for its readers to follow. Over fifty years since its first publication, the book continues to be used as a benchmark for personal documentary photography and remains one of the most influential, and most discussed photo books of the past century.

For more information about Robert Frank and The Americans, see links below.

Tools and Resources

Image to Sound Software

Video demonstrating the conversion of an image into sound using MetaSynth

  • Metasynth - An OSX application featuring an "Image Synth" (see video above) capable of converting an image to sound. Allows a high level of customization in terms of how the sounds are created. Various filters can be used to transform the image, thus altering its inherent sounds. Used to create sounds on this site.
  • Photosounder -Similar to MetaSynth. Far nicer GUI, but with fewer options.
  • Voice.exe - a free Windows application developed by Seeing With Sound designed to translate images into sound for the vision impaired. Allows users to listen to still images as well as live data from a webcam feed.
  • AudioPaint - A fairly basic image-to-sound converter for Windows with fewer options than the above applications.

Audio Spectrograph Software

Spectrogram view using Sonic Visualizer

There are a number of different applications that allow one to create an image from a sound file. Quality and style of the output varies with each program allowing for a wide variety of imagery.

  • Adobe Audition - Professional audio editor featuring a spectrograph view.
  • Sonic Visualizer - Freeware audio visualizer featuring a highly customizable spectrograph viewer
  • Audacity - A free, cross platform audio editor with a spectrograph feature.
  • Spectrograph 2.0 for iTunes (OSX only) - Real-time visualization plugin for iTunes.
  • Spectrogram.exe - A free, no-frills application for the PC used to create the spectrograms on this site. User documentation found here.

Sounds of the Americans.zip - Download this site's original sound files in WAV format to create your own visualizations using the above software. (352 MB)

Texts About Robert Frank and/or The Americans



Creative Works that Reference or Appropriate The Americans

Articles and Works Related to Copyright, Appropriation and Fair Use