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Exposure USA Talks to photographer Frank Rocco.

Interview By Kathleen Whitfield



©John Bigelow Taylor

How did you get into photography & why fashion etc.?

have loved taking pictures since I was seven or eight years old. My cousin had a Polaroid camera and I thought it was the coolest thing in the world. My first camera was a Polaroid camera just like hers. I then moved on to a film camera, but get this: it was a 110 cartridge camera.

I had wanted an SLR 35 mm camera forever, but other interests like playing music won out. I didn’t get an SLR until a was a freshman in college (university). Now I happened to be at a school that had only two photo courses; so I took them both. They had a great art program and Communication Arts program; I majored in Communications and minored in Studio Art.

I then did the most logical thing: went to work at a desk, in a suit, for three years. After two and a half, I told my boss I was quitting and going on an extended vacation in Europe until my money ran out. I even planned to take a bartending course so I’d have a shot at making more money on the road. My boss didn’t want me to quit without having another job and offered me a four week vacation and a job when I got back.
It was almost unheard of to get four weeks in a row. I took her offer and went to Europe for four weeks, came back and had a job ...that I hated.
I went on interview after interview trying to find another job so I could escape the current one. By Christmas, I was ready to take anything ...and I did. I took the first crappy job, a crappy photography job that I was offered. I didn’t think I could make money taking pictures ...and I didn’t first. I moved from crappy photography job to slightly less crappy photography job, etc.

While I was shooting portraits for two companies, I thought it would be ideal to have a darkroom near my house, so I looked into classes at on of the local schools. I liked the classes; without them, it was hard to get motivated, no matter how much I love shooting, to shoot all day for someone else and then go shoot some more for myself. So I took every class that fit into my schedule. There were only a handful of classes that I hadn’t taken, including Large Format Photography. I ran into an old friend who mentioned that her school, The Fashion Institute of Technology,  had quite a number of night and weekend courses, so I took every one they had (that I hadn’t taken before).

While I was taking my second large format class, I was completing an assignment that involved a still life shot, a Polaroid transfer and a shot of a model. It was then I realized that I actually love both of these extremes. I loved setting up the still life shot: with limited equipment, it took me all night to do basically one shot. When I shot the model, it took about five minutes ...literally. I love doing both, but while I may retire someday and shoot only still life, I love shooting people!

Fashion is one of the areas of photography that lets me work with lighting and set up scenes rather than just capturing what’s already out there. I love photojournalistic style and the sport of capturing the moment but fashion lets me experiment in a semi controlled environment. I believe the lighting here is the art. I love the clothing and the make-up, but it’s the opportunity to experiment with the light that keeps me focused on fashion.

What do you regard your style to be?

I would really like to leave that up to other people to decide. One thing I’ll say about my lighting is that I have studied and am constantly studying the light and try to know all the rules so that when I’m breaking them, it’s usually on purpose, and sometimes due to necessity and rarely just luck.

Even though I shoot in a variety of situations and with a variety of palettes, I think the constant is my perspective and how I envision the world and I believe that constant is my style, if that’s what you want to call it.

Do you photograph on digital or film?

I shoot both digitally and with film. About eighty percent of what’s on my web site is shot digitally, and that ratio is constantly growing. I love shooting film, but shooting digitally allows me some freedoms and speed that I don’t have with film. I haven’t sold or given away my film cameras yet fact, I still have a darkroom (that doesn’t get much use).

Where and what have you worked on?

work in and around New York City.  My studio is downtown ...a couple of blocks from where I worked that nine to five job. One of the latest things to come out that I’ve worked on were portraits of musicians and music industry people. I shot Just Blaze and Outkast’s manager, Blue Williams for a new magazine called Process. It’s not my usual thing, but I love shooting musicians and people in the music business.

Is there still a boom in America or is there more of a restraint on advertising/editorial at present?

think there’s been a drought since about 2001 in New York. The attacks on September 11th didn’t help, but it started slowing down before that. There seems to be a little bit of a pick up recently, but it’s too soon to tell if it will last. One photographer I know is moving to London to try her luck at finding work there. There seem to be a number of  new web-zines, but I don’t know if the advertising is there to support them. I still prefer reading a magazine I can hold.

Where do you think fashion is heading…new trend etc?

t’s hard to tell where fashion is headed. Old things keep coming back and it almost seems that the seventies revival will head straight into an eighties revival. For me, it’s more about individual pieces and not necessarily what’s "in". I love working with stylists who can mix and match pieces that look like they’re from different eras and make it work, but there’s something to be said for simplicity.

What about community - Do you belong to any organizations - give anything back?

I don’t know ...I guess I’d like to mention that working with an organization like ASMP (The American Society of Media Photographers) has helped me a lot.
Belonging to a community is a great resource for photographers since we tend to work, for the most part, alone. A shoot may be crowded, but that’s only part of the process. Most of us run our businesses alone, edit and retouch alone, and even if we have someone to help us run things, we often don’t have peers to relate to. I have been on the steering committee of the New York chapter of ASMP for four years and have been the membership chair for the last two. I’m always meeting photographers who are new to New York or new to the business entirely. It’s also just a good thing to be involved.


Go view Frank's site or e-mail him:
Frank Rocco
Frank Rocco Photography
phone: 718-281-4476
mobile: 917-974-1251
fax: 501-421-7523

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