Friday, January 4, 2013

Fran Forman

Fran Forman's images are not what you think they are.

On the other hand, her images are exactly what you think they are.

It's complicated.

Let's start with the background landscapes, many of which are shot by Fran in Wellfleet and Truro. She says the Cape is “a really easy place to photograph because of the marshes and the open vistas. And the light is so beautiful. A lot of the little houses and shacks I photograph are also from the Cape.”

But before you get comfortable with something recognizable, you need to know that those backgrounds are likely to contain bits of other places. The Blue Ridge Mountains, for instance.

This is part of what lends her images that familiar, yet disjointed feeling – like in dreams or a deja vu. Fran lets our thoughts land on the comfort of recognition for a moment, and then sends them on their way.

The figures in the images are also a collection of images and techniques. Many of the people start as old tintypes - found in junk shops or given to Fran by attic-cleaning friends.

While the images have their charms, they're usually just the torso. So Fran photographs models to animate the found tintypes. “I need those images to be doing stuff,” she says. “So I combine it, by collaging the new photographs that I take with the old photographs I've scanned. They're an amalgam of a lot of different images. I'm always collaging things. Most of the people come from many, many different sources.”

She then uses a stylus and tablet to paint in shadows, add color or change the clothing (remember, the found images start as black and white).

“I don't usually have a sense at the beginning of working on an image exactly how it's going to end up," she says. "What I do is start working with various images, putting things together, pulling them away. I have this feeling that all the pieces of the final image have to work together. I don't want it to look random. I want the various components to talk to each other, to have a relationship.”

Fran tries different combinations until she feels the color and texture of each component work together.

And while the stories are not something she always knows ahead of them, a narrative evolves as she works. The visual narrative is then handed over to the viewer to interpret.

“What I like when I see people looking at my work,” she says, “is for them to be standing in front of an image and talking to each other about what it means to them.”

“They're like little dreams that are open to interpretation. That's what they are to me.”

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