Interview | Frank Bell
When and how did your journey as a photographer begin?
I first got into photography around 2003/2004 when I picked up a little 1.3MP camera on eBay. I started taking it everywhere and quickly outgrew it, so my first job in the US was as a dishwasher at a country club and I saved up for a Canon Digital Rebel, and then I started taking THAT everywhere.
What camera(s) do you prefer to use?
I currently use a Nikon D810, but everything before December 2017 was either shot on a D5300 or a D3400.
Could you describe a bit about the type of photography you pursue?
Usually, when I go out to shoot I’m looking for really harsh light and deep shadows, whether it’s a 20ft shadow of a person crossing the street or a weird shape a shadow makes against a wall, that’s what excites me at the moment.
What inspired you to pursue photography?
The posterity of it. Being able to stop time and keep receipts of mundane minuscule moments that, a lot of times, I’m the only person on the planet to see. That’s pretty special.
What is your greatest source of inspiration?
That changes regularly. It could be a movie or another photographer or a museum or a book or a show or how the light hits a wall at a certain time of day, but I try to take in different art styles as much as possible.
What photographers influenced your work?
I’m not sure if I’ve been directly influenced by specific photographers, but I’ve been influenced by styles and eras like silent movies, film noir, the early 19th century, anything dark and atmospheric and ominous I’m instantly drawn to, and Chicago has a lot of spots that work well with those. I found out about Ray Metzker after I’d gotten into black and white light/shadows, but our styles are so similar it looks like I’ve straight up copied his style.
How would you describe your aesthetic?
Right now I’d say it’s something like Black and white found-light/shadow photography.
What is the most significant project you have worked on? Where did you find inspiration to pursue it?
I did a project for VSCO and Apple in November to help launch Apple’s new store in downtown Chicago. I gave a talk about my background and my photography and then did a panel with a couple of other photographers, and it was the most difficult thing I’ve had to do. I hate talking in front people, but I prepared and it went great. I knew that if I didn’t do it and just let my fear win out, I would’ve regretted it for a long time, and that was enough of a motivator to go through with it.
Are there any photography projects you are currently pursuing or would like to pursue?
At the moment I’m organizing pop-up art shows in the NW side of Chicago, I’m hanging some work here next week, I’m doing a zine soon, and I’m hoping that in the next year I can open a studio here.
What general process do you undergo to produce your work?
I shoot in RAW, usually underexposing when I’m direct light so that it deepens the darks and shadows, and when I edit my photos I use Lightroom. I don’t do anything too fancy, mostly just converting to black and white, and then adjusting the shadows, highlights, whites, blacks, and exposure a little, and some spot removal of distractions if needed.