Artist Interview - Fran Forman
Welcome to Dek Unu, Fran! You have always been an artist and image-maker.
As a child in Baltimore, I drew constantly – on papers my father brought back from his paper supply warehouse and in the margins of my school books. Mostly I drew faces. For my 13th birthday, I asked my parents for a subscription to Look magazine; I thought their photographs were even better than those I saw in Life, and I copied these photographs, paying special attention to the faces and shading. This was my art education, and from those mid-century photographic masters, I absorbed a sense of composition through the use of light and shadow, balance, and symmetry. I sensed that a photograph could make me feel…something. To this day, I remember the emotional impact of the exhibit, The Family of Man, at the Baltimore Museum of Art.
Solo Exhibition, 2014 ©Bob Flack
It was assumed that I would “do something with my art” when I grew up. But my growing up took a long time and was subsumed by getting caught up in the remarkable cultural and social shifts of the ‘60s. Making art seemed too individualistic when we were trying to "change
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the world." I became a foot-soldier in the protest movements, studied sociology and anthropology, and then became a social worker. Eventually, what had deteriorated into mindless doodling returned to actual picture-making.
Support and motivation are, with talent, the tripod that helps many artists to get going and keep going. Your motivators?
My mother encouraged me in my interest in art, which was unusual given her upbringing in a depression-era, conventional and patri-archal culture. I’m sure she was worried about how I would support myself, but she was unconditional in her love and support. And many friends along the way who watched me incessantly doodling encouraged me to "take my art more seriously." The current community of photographers has embraced my work, as I have theirs, and that group continues to inspire and excite me. I am in awe of the talent and creativity that surrounds me.
I believe that every artist suffers occasionally from imposter syndrome. But over time, I have become more confident about my work and my craftsmanship. It’s incredibly reaffirming when my work is referred to as poetic, painterly, metaphorical, and labeled as "photo-painting." These reviews and comments are validating, and when I’m in the midst of a fallow period, they give me enough confidence to keep working. So to answer your question…yes, these validations are indeed meaningful when they come from respected artists, and others, because they make me realize I’m reaching someone else.
Many of us remember the first photograph, from our earliest days of "fooling around" that actually "worked," sometimes the one that led to a career. Yours?
In the mid-70s, I planned to travel around the world, solo. I had the fantasy that I would document the journey, and I packed a little film camera into my backpack. I knew nothing about photography, and all but two of those snapshots belong in the dust heap. But