" For years I hesitated to shoot the way I shoot now, out of shyness and concern for what others might think of me. Now I don't care and I wish I had been bolder earlier. Don't hesitate -- be brave." Frank Petronio
The Original Alternative
" I am a full-time commercial and fine-art photographer specializing in portraiture.
In 2006 I began photographing amateur and alternative models that I found online through social networking websites. At first I approached my subjects with a detached, anthropological perspective, but their warmth and grace quickly won me over. I soon found myself making photos that celebrate my subject’s poise and beauty. This is an exciting time for me because my work is evolving rapidly. You can follow my progress by visiting my weblog and archive.
Tiana, Buffalo, New York
Even though many of my images are made with large format film, all of my images are edited, modified, and delivered digitally. At this point I do all of the work myself. My prices are medium-high and I retain the copyright to my images.
Since I starting photographing in 1983, I have done a wide range of work, including national ad campaigns and annual reports for Fortune 500 companies. I’ve also exhibited, taught, and traveled widely. Early in my career I was one of the first photographers to embrace digital imaging, and for several years my primary business was based upon retouching, image manipulation, and pre-press work.
Karen, Rochester, New York
This business evolved into a full service graphic design studio, which later became a boutique ad agency, and eventually a marketing consultancy called Cleanpage.
I also built some of the first large corporate websites and have freelanced as a creative director, graphic designer, art director, and copywriter.
Tiana, Buffalo, New York
Frank Petronio, could you tell me how did your passion for photography begin ?
In the early 1980s I was a skier and climber. I had a bad fall and spent a year recuperating, during which time I started to photograph, first from bed and later on my walks.
Did you learn in a special school ?
I did three basic university classes and took a workshop during the Summer. Otherwise I learned from reading books and asking questions.
And how long could you be far from your camera ?
When I don't have a camera I just draw or write. I entertain myself.
Marissa, Rochester, New York
Never stop, you're right... Who are your favorite photographers ?
Albert Watson, Chip Willis, Nicolas Nixon, Lee Friedlander.
How long dit it take to find your own style ? How do you define it ?
I have only been doing photos with models for 18 months. For 20 years prior I did a mix of mostly landscape and corporate photography.
I don't think I have found my own style and I don't think I should consciously attempt to have a style -- it seems very pretentious and self-important to stay confined to a particular style. In the course of working I may develop a style, but I want it to come about naturally, without artifice or manipulation.
That said, I tend to do photos of unadorned yet beautiful young women whom I've shared a connection with, a moment of intimacy. I process the images in a consistent manner -- the technique is the same -- so perhaps this is the beginning of "having a style" for me.
In your gallery, I didn't see many nude shots ?
Oh no, maybe one out of ten are naked, I don't keep track or go out intending to do nudes. If the models are nude it just happens in the course of the shoot.
Do you plan every details or is it improvisation from the beginning to the end ?
I try to find and create a scenario that has multiple potential photographs and then explore them with the model. Sometimes I am very directorial but usually the best photos are collaborations with an engaged model.
I would like to tell more stories with a beginning and an end, I need to find models willing to pursue this.
Do you feel particularly inspired by a type of location ?
Sometimes I shoot in bland hotel rooms because of convenience and scheduling... they are hardly inspiring spaces but often I find the absurdity of being alone with a beautiful women in such an bland room inspires me to look at the model more intensely.
But I do enjoy stark modern hotels, I very much enjoying shooting at the Hotel on Rivington in lower Manhattan -- it is all glass walls overlooking the city. Lovely.
I really hate working in the studio, I used to have several photo studios, I find them oppressive.
I saw you have a preference for outdoors shootings...
I prefer natural, low light light levels although sometimes I will supplement the lighting by adding bounced ambient light. I usually start by shooting digital color photos but once I refine my ideas I switch to large format black and white film (4x5 inch film). I value both the digital and film photos equally though.
Some words about your models ? A shooting that you particularly liked ?
The best shoots and models have been close friends and we know when we've been successful. Once we are close almost every shoot results in some very successful photos, even when we aren't feeling well we still find something that works as a good photo. I do have a core group of friends that I return to photograph over and over, and I hope that we're able to do that indefinitely.
I just returned from a trip where both the model and I were sick the entire time. We didn't really shoot at all but I know I made a beautiful photo of her simply sleeping, curled up in bed.
The other day I shot with my favorite, best in a studio (out of necessity) and we made wonderful photos even though we weren't happy with each other. Sometimes the tension makes for a better photo, even if it hurts.
How do you feel at the end of a shooting ?
Usually I am tired, sweaty, and dirty from crawling on the ground ! The best thing to do is to collapse.... otherwise I usually have a long contemplative trip home.
Have you a special project, some challenges you're dreaming about in a near future ?
I would like to do more editorial assignments with actors and personalities to do more raw, spontaneous work.... and I'd work with more professional and experienced models and stylists to do slightly more formal work in more elegant settings.
But mostly I would like to continue shooting with my core group of close friends over a long period of time -- to watch them grow, quite literally.
What a nice project ! Have you scheduled your next exhibition ?
No I am searching for the right gallery and the funds to make larger, more impressive prints. The large format work that I do is very expensive but it looks fantastic printed large.
Have you published a book ? In magazines ? Is there a new one to come ?
I have some photos coming out in INKED magazine, of tattooed models. Otherwise none of the recent work with models has been published. I am writing and designing a self-published book however.
Like me... And so many artists... And besides shooting, have you another passion ?
I am a committed, if imperfect, father and husband although I tend to bury myself in my photography sometimes too much. I still enjoy outdoor speed sports, like alpine skiing and mountain biking, and I do them at a high level for a fellow my age ;-)
Fine ! Maybe a message to send before we leave ?
For years I hesitated to shoot the way I shoot now, out of shyness and concern for what others might think of me. Now I don't care and I wish I had been bolder earlier. Don't hesitate -- be brave.
Thank you very much Frank ! It was a great pleasure to welcome you here !
Aimee in Chicago
Frank Petronio ©
Frank Petronio ©