Frank Petronio photographer

Nightly Ag Report 6

Someday it will be illegal to hire illegals and they’ll stop coming. Then the fields will be filled with former crack dealers, welfare frauds, and the chronically uneducable doing honest labor for a fairwage. People will move out of hopeless cities and re-engage with the land, breaking cycles of stupidity and dependence. That’s how I believe it should work. I have a dream… but perhaps you believe in the perpetuation of the status quo? i.e. Human trafficking, exploitation, multigenerational poverty and the denigration of manual labor? Not to mention the likelihood of a permanent single party Democrat party oligarchy if the tide doesn’t turn? 

Euan Forrester

Euan Forrester is a Vancouver, BC photographer with some cool ideas and interesting photos, check out:

Here is a long winded reply to his simple question…. 

Euan: …And thanks about the exposure: I kind of ran out of ideas for how to get more. I pitched to a lot of websites :). I’m definitely curious if you have any suggestions - it sounds like you’re more experienced with this than me.

Frank: Hi Euan,

As for photography, when I did commercial work I had to promote and it was clear cut and effective ~ back then people sent postcards, now it’s email, and while it is hard to break through the mass of promos art directors get, if you are consistently persistent and have great work eventually something lucky will happen and you can pounce on the opportunity.

Ironically as when I was an ad agency (more or less) advertising myself did not work. Instead most advertising accounts were won by word of mouth and personal interaction. I found myself on community boards and charities making friends with small business owners and VPs of marketing for larger concerns. Golfing would have helped had I…. Maybe in the NW you could do it biking and skiing which would be more fun but Rochester is old school… I’ve been out of it though, perhaps it is changing? 

For fine art photography I’ve been around the block. I’ve had small solo shows at local spaces. That will sell a print or two maybe. Then there are group shows and competitions like you’ll find listed on “Call For Entry” where you get to frame and ship a print to hang in some academic gallery thousands of miles away… for nothing more than a resume line I guess. Some people do portfolio reviews and Aperture competitions – I’ve done them once – but they feel a lot like groveling to me. And of course you can send stuff around the internet to art photo websites like Fecal Face and American Suburb X and the like – before it was magazines like Shots – but I’ve never really gotten much out of them other than other curious photographers high-fiving or trying to sell me something. 

So this expert, experienced, multi-million dollar marketeer is stumped and at a loggerhead. I don’t know what the fuck to do. 

When I look at resumes of “successful” artists I see a lot of them went to Yale for their MFA and had interesting work and got an early show in NYC and kept plugging along. I figure most of them come from money (or marry doctors) and they’re lucky. If you plug away at photography long enough to get your skills to a high level you realize that you can and are making images just as good as the famous big boys and girls so it’s not the photography that matters but something else…. 

Then I wonder about what defines success? For years I thought if a publisher wanted to print my book that would be it. And a NYC gallery would do a show of XXL prints that sold for $25K-plus, that’d be good. I wanted critics to write about me in Art Forum or something along those lines, “Bad Boy Frank Petronio Shakes Up Photography”. 

But at some point I no longer cared. I decided that Aperture and NYC galleries were full of people I didn’t really like. Or more honestly, I despised them. I worked hard and was lucky so I wasn’t struggling to make enough money. And I met and observed several “successful” artists to realize they weren’t happy or all that successful in day to day life. 

So I decided to just keep photographing because I like it… the challenges, the satisfaction of shooting that rare photo you know will be good. I like the process, where I can spend a relatively short amount of time working on an image that potentially could be as good as any image ever made… it’s not like architecture where you spend years and make all kinds of compromises in the process.

I do think about some sort of legacy. I throw most of my work away. I have less than many life-long photographers but there are still four feet of negative binders and twenty or so boxes of stuff I’d like to consolidate down to one or two boxes by the time I die so the kids have less of a headache. I’d like my estate to keep my website going for another 20 years or so afterwards. Morbid thoughts like those. 

The Blurb books are really nice, not that you sell them or that they do much on their own, but it is satisfying to hold a body of work in one nicely produced volume even if there are only a handful of copies in existence. I’d love to have a big white wall gallery show of 30x40 prints but I am not willing to drop $15,000 of my own money to produce one so the $100 Blurb book is the best I will do.

Personally I did the Alt Model stuff from 2006/2007 to about last year. It’s complete but I may still shoot with a few people once in a while. And I think it will age well because it captures a time when social media was just beginning to trickle down to the masses and people - women - were somewhat innocent and naive about posting too much information online. I note that in 2017 the models are more concerned about money than art whereas in 2007 few were looking for a paycheck. Of course thousands of photographers shoot photos of models and tattoos and punky-funky scenes but I think I did it early and in my own style that’s better than most. I’m not unconfident. 

Currently I’m trying to express my Populist - Nationalist - AltRight - Trumpian leanings with photography. I know this isn’t going to be popular but that is the challenge. It’s predictable to do the soft photojournalism that preys on emotion and sympathy, but I think it’s much harder to suggest a counter or a more complex explanation beyond the progressive narrative we’ve all been brought up with. Where does it go? I’ll get to illustrate some news and opinion websites. I definitely want to do another nicer book like I did with the models. Ultimately I think it will be an important historical collection years down the road whichever way the politics go, especially since there are so few photographers working with these ideas. 
But IDK, perhaps it will morph into a series about farming rather than politics. I could do a lifetime of work right in my home area and I like that idea… going to some ridiculously photogenic place like Iceland seems like a huge challenge in comparison. 

I guess this doesn’t help you directly but I never got any super advice on the down low from anyone else either. Nathan Lyons told me to “keep working” as did Robert Adams. It was nice to talk to them and I admire them greatly but big whoop. 

Your project with the outdoor prints lining the trail does seem to have legs though, perhaps some of the various public art grants that appear in Call to Entry? I doubt they’d pay enough to quit your job while requiring a lot of time but your home in a prosperous city like Vancouver – there must be some wealthy movers and shakers to fund something? Even if it is real estate related…. Isn’t there a new massive ski area being built up near Jasper? (By the guy who failed with Jumbo.) Wouldn’t it be cool to track that for a decade or two? Guilt them into paying for some art to appease the Greenies! 

If you follow my Instagram you’ll see I’m very cynical, especially about the art world. I probably do this to make my rationalizations to keep on working stronger, to present a David versus Goliath challenge to stay motivated. 

Best of luck and…. “keep working”!


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