NOTE: I don't support Frank's political views. This article and my appreciation is based on photography and art alone - separate from politics. The review is about his photography, not his politics
Pasteurised, homogenised, sanitised aren't words you can apply to the work of Frank Petronio. In a scene where social acceptability is the norm, for either PC, commercial or religious reasons, Frank's views and methods on photography are refreshing, and insightful. It's kind of nice when someone has something to say, and they don't give a shit what you think when they say it. There's a part of me that enjoys that kind of disregard as long as it's someone who has the photographic runs on the board.
Frank was the first photographer I followed way back in Tumblr days before Fart Book and Insta Gratification were the profundities they are now. He had a booming Tumblr account, lots of dedicated followers then one day he was gone, account deleted, archives trashed. Brings back memories of Brian Duffy's (The Man Who Shot the Sixties) response when he found there was no toilet paper in his studio - he set fire to his entire collection of negatives and slides. Such an apt response. On a side note: Frank's work and Brian's are similar in more ways than their ability to trash the past and start again.
When I moved from landscapes and architecture to shooting humans around 10 years ago, there were many inspirations. Most were photographers who imbued something of themselves in their work and took an active part in the picture-making process. They had something to say and they said it. People like Penn, Duffy and Avedon, who were first and foremost brilliant portrait photographers.
Later on I found Frank's work. Initially I liked the fact he bothered shooting large format with human subjects but pretty quickly I saw what he was really doing. This was great, and fresh. Franks is, above all, a story teller and portrait photographer. He's a brilliant writer, adept with language and wordage, and that story-telling talent is also manifested via his camera in a visual sense. That's a powerful talent.
So the tech side. Much of the work in the book is film, much of that has been shot on 4x5 or a few 5x7 and 8x10 as well. Boggles my mind how you shoot journo style, dynamic situations with a camera like that. A level of dedication not to mention skill, required in abundance. But it's all there, warts and all.
This was supposed to be a book review. Well, it is kind of. I recently bought Frank's book, "Tog". Any young photographers out there thinking of toeing socially acceptable commercial norms, or young photographers toeing socially unacceptable norms thinking that's cool, or for any older photographers who can't see beyond the glam, or any photographer for that matter, check Frank's book out.
Thanks for the inspiration Frank. And keep pushing those seemingly increasing social boundaries. There aren't many who are. But if you get deleted, let me know where you are.
By the way, Frank's on Instagram now, but maybe not for long...
This is his blurb:
"For ten years I traveled America photographing interesting amateur and alternative models who I met via social media. My photos are arranged chronologically so you can see the progression of my technique and attitude. Models include Alysha Nett, Hanna Grace, Hattie Watson, twins Meagan and Melody Sample, Nettie Harris, Sash, and many more. I am quite happy with the book design, it is not just another repetitive centered photo portfolio. Blurb's production quality is much improved in recent years.... Profit is set to zero and this is the fifth and hopefully final design and copy iteration. Oh and half the work is large format film, 20% is color, and 10% are kind of naked NSFW."
"Available through Blurb at http://www.blurb.com/b/7433171-togfor $107.29 plus shipping (look for frequently offered 25-40% promotion codes). Blurb also has an excellent full-length online preview (Flash-based) that you can view full screen."