Fran Forman

Fran Forman’s ( photo paintings have been exhibited widely, both locally and internationally, and are in many private collections as well the permanent collections of the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum (Washington, DC), the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, The Grace Museum (Texas), the Sunnhordland Museum (Norway), the Comer Collection at the University of Texas, and the County Down Museum (Northern Ireland).
Escape Artist: The Art of Fran Forman was published by SchifferBooks and was selected as one of the Best PhotoBooks of 2014 by Elizabeth Avedon and won First Place in an international competition. Catalogues of Fran’s solo exhibitions were published by Pucker Gallery in 2018, 2016, and 2014. Fran is also featured in Contemporary Cape Cod Artists: People and Places, 2014, Photoshop Masking and Compositing, 2012, and Internationales Magazin fur Sinnliche Fotografie (Fine Art Photo), 2014, The Hand Magazine, 2016, Blur Magazine (2016), two Pucker Gallery publications, and Shadow and Light, 2015 and 2018. She was Artist in Residence at Holsnoy Kloster, Norway, in 2016 and at The Studios of Key West in 2015. Additionally, she is often asked to juror and curate photo exhibitions.
Most recently, Fran has mounted solo exhibitions at The Fox Talbot Museum, Lacock Abbey, England, The Massachusetts State House (The Griffin Museum of Photography), AfterImage Gallery (Dallas), the University of North Dakota, Galeria Photo/Graphica (Mexico), and the Pucker Gallery (Boston), as well as numerous group shows. In the past decade, Fran has won numerous significant awards and prizes; most recently, first place from the Julia Margaret Cameron awards and three awards (First Place, Gold and Silver) from PX3 Prix de la Photographie, Paris. In 2011, she exhibited at the 2nd Biennial International Exhibition, Lishui, China (one of only thirty Americans); she also won the second prize from the World Photography Gala Award (out of over 8000 entries) in People and Portraits; in 2010, she won 1st place in Collage for the Lucie Foundation’s International Photo Awards (IPA). She was also a finalist for four straight years in PhotoLucida’s Critical Mass.
Fran is represented by Pucker Gallery (Boston), AfterImage Gallery (Dallas), SusanSpiritus Gallery (California), and Galeria Photo/Graphica (Mexico). She is an Affiliated Scholar at the Women’s Studies Research Center at Brandeis University, a recipient of several grants and Artist Residencies, and teaches advanced photo-collage internationally. Fran studied art and sociology at Brandeis University, received an MSW in psychiatric social work, and then an MFA from Boston University. She resides in the New England area.

Fran Forman Portfolio

Julia Dean Interviews Fran Forman

LACP Founder and Executive Director Julia Dean asks Fran Forman?ten questions about her background, career in and beliefs about photography ?

Julia Dean: What kind of photographer are you?

Fran Forman: I’m more of a hunter and gatherer. I shoot pictures wherever I go – things that interest me at the moment, not knowing quite where they’ll end up, if anywhere. I also scan objects, old photos, ephemera, my paintings, and I sometimes paint on my photographs or add gold leaf and encaustic. In fact, I used to do a lot of painting and drawing, and my photography tends towards the more “mixed media” or “painterly,” I think. The final photographic images are composited, so I guess I’m sometimes called a “photo montagist.” But I prefer to think of myself as someone who simply makes art.

JD: How long have you been shooting?

FF: I always thought I would “do something in the arts.” I began to take photography seriously (as opposed to snapping picts of my dog or accidental photos of my friends’ feet) in the mid-70s. I’ve been more of a full-time “shooter” for about the past 15 years.

JD: Where did you get your training?

FF: Because I did a lot of drawing as a child, I copied photographs that I liked from magazines such as Life and Look. Those photographs probably provided me with the best training in terms of composition, light, shadow, and emotional impact. Later, I spent hours pouring through issues of Camera magazine, where I was introduced to many of the photographers who continue to influence me today.

Later, while working at MIT, I had access to the darkroom, where I learned by trial and error – mostly error – and a lot of training from sympathetic and patient undergrads. Other than an occasional workshop, I haven’t had much in the way of professional training in photography, which I regret. Don’t ask me about the zone system.

JD: When did you know you wanted to devote your life to photography?

FF: I always thought I “would do something in the arts,” because of my background in drawing and painting. But the moment the first image appeared from the liquid bath in the darkroom, I fell in love.

Eventually I realized I couldn’t make a living as a professional fine-art photographer, and I was only interested in creating my own personal tableau. So I entered an MFA program in graphic design. My first year of graduate school, however, was spent in the darkroom, and I didn’t really learn much about graphic design until after receiving my Masters. (Fortunately, by then, the technology was changing so rapidly that what I would have learned in graphic design school – had I not been in the darkroom – became obsolete, such as copy-fitting, type-setting, cutting rubylith with exacto blades).
I began using a computer to make drawings (with a mouse!) in 1989 and Photoshop in 1992 to combine those pictures with my photographs. That’s when I fell in love all over again.

JD: Did you ever come close to giving up?

FF: I did move away from photography to become a graphic designer but returned full-time to photography after about 20 years. And although my career as a graphic designer pulled me in different directions, it ultimately served me well when I decided to devote myself full-time to fine art photography. For instance, as a designer, you’re always thinking about how best to communicate a message or emotion, how text and image should work in tandem to support that message, that there should be no “wasted real estate,” and that every part of that design – even the negative spaces – should service the message. And to do so, the design should be beautiful or bold and at the intersection of fine art, commerce and psychology. Similarly, I hope that my photographic composite images draw the viewer in by telling a story, creating a feeling, and that every pixel works to service that story.

JD: Have you sacrificed anything by being a photographer?

FF: A steady income!

JD: What have you gained by being a photographer?

FF: I look at the world differently. I pay attention to lights and darks, textures, clouds and bugs, enigmatic expressions, everything. All images, objects, or landscapes might become fodder for my photo montages. Also, and this may be more important, I’ve gained a community of artists – on a global scale – and I’ve been fortunate to travel places and meet people who share my passions. I now count among some of my closest friends people I’ve met in the global photographic community.

JD: What classes do you teach at LACP?

FF: Creating the Photo Montage

JD: What do you love most about teaching?

FF: I love to see students get as excited as I do when something clicks, when the tools that might have seemed daunting suddenly become second nature. It’s very liberating when the student realizes that the computer is just one more tool in the arsenal of image-making tools; then the imagination is free to soar and art happens. That’s so cool!

JD: What advice would you give someone who is thinking about making a career in photography?

FF: Work every day. Be willing to make mistakes, to be confused and frustrated. Experiment. Have fun. Look at and read about the work of others: not only photographers but painters, sculptors. Read books. Read good books. Read history. Listen to music – good music. Get a day job.