Remember when I said we were on the last MCAT CARS passage last week? Surprise, we have 3 more to go! How about that for a fun prank! Enjoy and subscribe.
Once again, Clara from Next Step Test Prep is joining us as we break down the passages over the next three weeks.
[02:35] Passage 7
Robert Frank’s 1958 volume of photography The Americans, is arguably the most influential book of photography published in the 20th century. The book chronicles a year-long road trip that Frank took across the country. Its 83 images are called from the nearly 28,000 photos he shot as he drove thousands of miles traversing the United States, stopping in Detroit factories, New Mexico saloons, Miami hotels, and hundreds of other locales.
At the time that Frank embarked on his cross-country trip, photography was a “disdained medium” as fellow photographer Walker Evans said. Few American museums exhibited photographs. Those that did consisted primarily of images of well-known figures. One exception was photographer Dorothea Lange who, like Robert Frank, chronicled the lives of average people in difficult circumstances. Yet, while Lange’s images convey a sensitive transcendence over adversity, Frank’s work often belies a subject’s hopelessness, their inability to step out of their despondency. In fact, the criticism of Frank’s work had to do with a lurking despair embodied in his subjects – a bored teenage elevator operator in Miami, a carload of game faced politicians, a smog southern couple walking with hands tightly clutched. He portrayed a darkness that was difficult to acknowledge and even harder to behold.
Clara’s Note: There are a lot of names in this passage so it’s a good thing to highlight as you go.
But critics also look askance at other aspects of Frank’s photographs. There were profound stylistic differences between Robert Frank’s images and those that reflected the reigning aesthetic in photography at that time, best exemplified by Life Magazine. Life’s photos, crisp, linear, and unambiguous in the story they told stood in contrast to Frank’s photos, which had a messiness to them as well as a murking emotionality that was off putting to confront. “I leave it up to you,” he says. “They don’t have an end or beginning. They’re a piece of the middle.” In this way, Frank’s intent differed from that of Henri Cartier-Bresson. While it might seem that both artists were drawn to candid shots of street life, Cartier-Bresson believed that a photographer captured a decisive moment while Frank was enraptured by “some moment I couldn’t explain.” A Swiss immigrant, Frank remained an outsider, an observer who loved his adopted country without shying from its darkness and flaws. Frank found an ally in writer Jack Kerouac whose novel On the Road spoke of cross-country ramblings through small towns. “Kerouac personified what I hope I’d find here in America. He was interested in outsiders, he wasn’t interested in walking in the middle of the road,” Frank said. After meeting Kerouac at a party in New York, Frank asked him to write an introduction to The Americans. Kerouac did, writing at Frank, “sucked a sad poem out of America onto film,” taking rank among the tragic poets of the world.
[05:55] Question 36
Of the following, which would provide the best title for the passage?
- (A) Frank, Lange, and Cartier-Bresson: Candid Photos of Three Photographers
- (B) Robert Frank: Mysterious Outsider
- (C) Robert Frank: An Outsider Peers In
- (D) Critique of the American Malaise: Robert Frank
C is the right answer here. Since you’re looking for the title of the passage, it has to be essentially the main idea of the passage. And the main point of the passage was all about Robert Frank’s photographs. A is way off because we’re not taking photos of the photographers. B is out since we’re not told that Robert Frank is mysterious. And D doesn’t just seem to fit as it’s out of scope.
[08:05] Question 39
According to the passage, which of the following statements best represents the stylistic difference between Frank’s photographers and those of his mid-20th-century contemporaries?
- (A) Frank’s photographs are sometimes blurry or messy while the more accepted photographs at that time looked crisp and clean.
- (B) Few of Frank’s contemporaries took photos that were as overly critical of American life.
- (C) Frank’s subjects are realistic while his contemporaries portrayed an idealized view of 1950s America.
- (D) Frank’s photos are candid, unlike the posed portraits typical of Life Magazine.
A is the correct answer here. D was wrong as Life Magazine was this contemporary that the passage compares to Robert Frank. As for C, we really don’t know that his contemporaries did portray an idealized view. Again, be very careful to stay within the realm of what the answer choice says.
Make sure you’re not reading into what you’re reading. It’s easy to see an answer choice that looks really close to what the passage is saying or it has the same tone but not the same in meaning. Hence, we get rid of C.
[12:22] Question 40
Supposed a critic who agreed with the theories of Henri Cartier-Bresson, were to write about a photograph taken by Robert Frank, which word would he be most likely to use in describing such photograph?
- (A) Transcendent
- (B) Indecisive
- (C) Unambiguous
- (D) Enraptured
The correct answer here is B. It’s important to keep in mind who was being asked about. The passage says that Frank was enraptured by some moment he couldn’t explain, but that doesn’t mean that the critic who agreed with this other photographer would be enraptured by Frank. But it was Frank who was enraptured. Hence, D is incorrect.
B is perfect since Cartier-Bresson’s photographs were described as decisive so a critic looking at Robert Frank’s might say photos were indecisive.
[15:40] Question 41
The author notes in paragraph 1 that The American’s iconic status did not reflect his reception of publication and suggest that all of the following contributed to that reception, except:
- (A) At the time of publication, photography was not considered a wholly legitimate art form.
- (B) Frank’s work was upsetting and forced to confront difficult subjects.
- (C) The style of Frank’s photographs was not typical of either artistic or journalistic images at that time.
- (D) Contemporary viewers are more accepting of the viewpoints of outsiders than were mid-20th-century viewers.
The correct answer here is D. A is the tempting wrong answer here since students are tempted to pick it due to the word “disdain” medium but it’s not exactly what A is saying.
Looking at D, the passage never mentioned contemporary or modern viewers at all. SO this is a really very good example where if you start to think too much and break apart an answer choice thinking the MCAT is here to trick you, it could lead you to pick the wrong answer because the MCAT is really a direct test. D is totally out of scope so it’s the perfect answer.
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