We are so excited to welcome the wonderfully talented Lexia Frank of Lexia Frank Photography to the Blog! Take a moment to learn more about her beautiful wedding photography, and be sure to visit her website. Thank you so much Lexia for taking the time to share your work with us today!
Where did your inspiration for photography begin?
I’ve always known I would be an artist in some capacity, even when i was a child. i have a diary from when I was six that had a little questionnaire in the beginning that posed the question: “what do you want to do when you grow up?” and I answered: “a dancer and an artist” and am happy to say I grew up to be both. It’s not often adults take children seriously when they express their desires of what they want to be when they grow up, but luckily for me, my parents did. They put me in special art classes, and when I was serious about ballet, they drove me an hour and a half both ways to classes every night of the week. It was really a massive sacrifice for my parents as well as myself.
When I was in high school my dad (an incredible hobbyist photographer in his own right) showed me how to use his Nikon film camera. He loaned it to me on the premise that it must ALWAYS stay in Manual mode. If he ever caught me with it on automatic, it would no longer be available to me. He wanted me to fully understand the camera and the science behind how to create the image I had in my mind, and never let the camera do the thinking for me. There was also a bit of luck involved. My first darkroom printing class I had in high school, the first image i developed actually turned out (a picture of a corn husk- I’m from a small town in the midwest!), which spurred a little bit of confidence in myself and gave me the momentum to keep working at the craft.
How would you describe your photography style?
Quietly emotive. Sometimes I find myself taking my clients away from the hustle and bustle, bringing them down to a more peaceful place and actually whispering! Then again, the ruckus of real life is also a favorite of mine to capture unobtrusively!
Did you study photography in school or are you self taught?
I did study specifically photography. I went to the university of wisconsin in Madison and majored in fine art. There was a lot of photography involved, and history of art and photography as well. It gave me a really great base to build upon. However, the photography I did and studied in school was fine art based, not portrait based, so I really had a lot of learning to do in my field. I was TERRIBLE in the beginning!
What brand/model camera do you shoot, and what is your favorite lens?
I am not a brand specific photographer. I shoot with the medium/brand/lens that best fits the given situation. I am 99% film based, and shoot with a Contax 645 medium format camera with an 80mm lens or a 35mm lens, a Rolleiflex sl66, a Nikon f4, a Polaroid 66SE… the list could go on. If the rare occurance happens where i need to shoot digital (for a commercial shoot and they need to see the images on set for instance), I shoot with my Nikon d3S and whatever lens is required for the shoot, or a Canon 7d, etc.
I think it’s important to fail, and fail often – preferrably not with clients. Which means that you need to be doing personal work, and carrying your camera with you EVERY.DAY. It’s also important to get comfortable shooting in all different kinds of light so that when you’re put in (what you feel is) a less-than-ideal situation with a client, you know how to comfortably handle it and be confident you’re going to deliver killer imagery. Versatility is a tool not many photographers carry in their back pocket. It’s a tool gained through massive amounts of failure and trial and error.
It has changed for me over the years. At first, it was very close to what we were discussing above- the versatility of the day. There are so many changes and scenarios that you have to be comfortable handling (especially with lighting), and there is only so much control over you have over it. Meeting client expectations – they want sunset pictures, but it’s raining outside. Once I was comfortable shooting in every lighting situation and felt like a ninja, the hardest thing was managing client expectations and educating my clients beforehand so there were no bumps in the road or unachievable expectations. Now, I think my biggest challenge is balancing the need to shoot both stunning portraits and beautiful details but also giving the same amount of care and attention to the photojournalist aspect of wedding photography. Many times, after shooting the portraits and details, photographers (myself included) breathe a sigh of relief and sort of let down in a way… and just shoot casually the on-goings of the day. I’m working on making this a focus of mine and giving it the same care as the rest of my work.
This has been the year of lessons for myself. I’ve been in business 6 years, and the 6-year-slump did indeed happen. I burnt out a bit and took on some personal work instead. Ryan Weeger and Zalmy Berkowitz were kind enough to let me tag along at one of their weddings to photograph photojournalistic moments without any pressure of delivering the standard photographs (ie- safety shots) that I feel like my clients need/expect. Having that pressure lifted, I was free to try unusual angles, shoot in all black and white if I wanted, free to fail and mess up and step out of my comfort zone. Failing is important.
If you could encourage a new photographer in one area, what would it be?
To fail and grow all the time. I think it’s important to distinguish here that when I say ‘fail’, I concurrently mean ‘grow’. If you’re failing all the time and you’re also not growing – it’s a sign that maybe you shouldn’t quit your day job and perhaps you should find a different creative outlet. But if you are failing all the time while at the same time growing, that means you are constantly stepping out of your safe zone and working. I also always encourage photographers to stay with one camera body, one lens, and one film stock, one lab until they know it like the back of their hand. THEN switch one of those things out. You don’t need a lot of equipment- you need equipment that you KNOW. Also, if everyone’s shooting backlit f/2, shoot direct sun f/8. Make it your own.
What do you love most about being a photographer?
I love the people. The people in the industry, the people I get to meet and take a peek at the most intimate moments of their life, telling their stories, and treating them with love. I also am a sensitive soul that hates confrontation or uncomfortable situations, so I think I’ve successfully surrounded myself with people who are experiencing the most happy moments of their entire life.
Where do you see yourself in 5 years?
If it’s one thing I’ve learned, it’s that you can’t predict the future, and it’s futile to try to do so. I’m not saying don’t have goals, but I’m saying be open to the doors that present themselves to you. I actually NEVER thought I’d be doing wedding photography, but it was a door I sort of accidentally stepped through without realizing it. My only goal is to be focused on doing the best work I possibly can in the here-and-now, and be mindful of opportunities that come knocking.
About the Artist: Lexia Frank is a highly sought after fine art wedding and portrait film photographer, who regularly shoots throughout the continental US as well as internationally. As a former ballet dancer with the Madison Ballet, she attributes her love for the human form and the arts from her years in training, and she translates this beautifully into her photography. While obtaining her degree in Fine Art from the University of Wisconsin, she fell in love with the traditional practices of film photography, and continues to use these methods of image making in her business, which helps to set her apart from the slew of digital media in this current age. In her work, she aspires to create honest, raw, quietly emotional imagery. In 2011, Lexia won the prestigious Canon Project Imagin8ion Contest chosen by Ron Howard as the winner from amongst almost 100,000 photographs. The Chosen photograph went on to inspire the award winning film, “When You Find Me”, directed by Academy Award winning director Ron Howard and Bryce Dallas Howard. Ron Howard says about Lexia’s work: “It’s dramatic, it’s utterly human, powerfully relatable. (her work) Spoke so pointedly, powerfully, to a very relatable set of human emotions.”
She, as well as her work, have graced the cover of many national magazines such as BabyTalk, Rangefinder, and Veil magazine; exhibited in galleries; and authored many articles on photography. She has been interviewed for magazines and news programs alike, and as an industry leader she also teaches master classes at the world’s largest photography convention- WPPI (Wedding and Portrait Photographers International). Her work has taken her all over the world- to Africa, the Middle East, Europe, South America, the Caribbean, and beyond. In the future she hopes to continue to tell people’s stories photographically here in the US and beyond, and to teach her two young boys the art of slowing down to appreciate the beauty that is this life.