What inspired you to start taking photographs, and what have been some of the most important milestones in your career up until now?
I've always loved pictures and I drew incessantly, often copying figures from magazine photos (I looked forward to the arrival of my family's Look magazines every week). I also made collages, combining magazine photos, torn paper and drawings.(My dad was a paper salesman, so we always had reams of paper samples on hand.)
But when I was introduced to a darkroom, I - like so many of us - fell immediately in love with the magical moment in which the image would emerge from the liquid bath, and I put away my pencils and picked up a Nikon. This 'discovery' came soon after I'd decided to pursue a graduate degree (an MFA, specializing in graphic design and photography). In fact, my 'discovery' of graphic design - the merging of fine art, commerce, image-making and communication - was an earlier milestone. When I was introduced to drawing on the computer in 1989 and to Photoshop in 1992, pre-layers, it all came together, so this was the next milestone. With this new toolkit and playground, I was now able to seamlessly composite my drawing with photographs.
How do you approach editing your work, and what advice would you give to others about evaluating their photographs?
As I work in a solitary fashion, I find the editing process extremely difficult. I need feedback, so I might send a jpg to a trusted friend when I'm working on an image or ask my gallery director for an opinion. I also don't print my images immediately. I look at them on my iPad or some other device, let them 'sit' for awhile, think about them, and come back to them when I'm ready. Quite often, I then alter or discard many parts of the image. As each image takes a long time to create, it takes extreme fortitude to make these changes! I should add that most of the images never see the light of day, although I might cannabalize parts of them and re-use those pieces elsewhere.
I think it's helpful to look at an image upside down and sideways and to ask these questions about each composition:
does it make sense at least to me?
does every element work together and form cohesive relationships?
does every pixel have a purpose?
does it question and surprise?
does the image make me feel something?
How do you decide on new projects to work on? Do you always shoot with a concept in mind or do you wait to be inspired as you go?
I shoot what interests me and I later let the images draw me into their story. The idea of 'projects' comes after I've generated some images and I then discover their connections. The process is intuitive and allows me more freedom with my image-making.
What ways have you found successful for promoting your work and finding a receptive audience for it?
Promoting one's fine art is so different than marketing a service, which is what I did for years as a designer. Learning to promote one's fine art is both daunting and only occasionally rewarding; it's required me to get over my shyness, my tendency towards self-effacement, my fear of self-promotion (how unladylike to promote oneself!), and it has forced me to accept rejection…it's not for the faint of heart! But I discovered that little successes lead to bigger ones - as long as the work is interesting and challenging and the craftsmanship, solid. For emerging artists, I recommend juried exhibits with respected jurors and occasional portfolio reviews. Social media is also a must, alas. But the real challenge is to avoid getting sucked into the vortex of marketing and promotion and to not lose sight of your art.
© copyright all images Fran Forman