Frank Vernon Hollahan interview

If you haven't read my interview with Tom Cochrane yet I highly recommend you go back and give it a read. It's interesting to compare how these two photographers separated in generation  see their craft differently.

“The camera does something to your thinking, it changes the aspect of what you see. Every day, every minute, wherever you look, you have an imaginary frame in front of your eyes, composing everything and anything.”

JB: So you’ve taken photographs for your whole life?

FH:  No, I haven’t taken pictures my whole life. When I was young I was fascinated with optics, anything you could look through, a telescope, microscope, binoculars, magnifying glasses. At the age of 12 or 13, I built a camera, which was part of a science kit. From that moment forward I knew a camera was a tool I’d eventually spend time with. So, I would play with my mother’s cameras, peering through the viewfinder, framing all kinds of objects in and around the house. I didn’t know what I was doing then, but now I understand, I was composing.

My mother’s side of the family were “artsy” people. She had two sisters, they were the ladies with the big straw hats sitting on the side of a hill or in the middle of a field with their paint brushes and an easel. Other members of the family were talented artisan woodworkers. So when I discovered this about my family, I felt art was my calling.  

JB: What got you back into painting or photography?

FH: It was a craving. The creative juices were flowing and all I wanted to do was compose. I don’t paint much anymore so photography is, and will continue to be, my artistic outlet. When I head out with camera gear in hand and find a composition, everything becomes spiritual, “solitary artist”, so to speak It’s an amazing feeling to apply your own style in order to craft an image that you’ve envisioned. If I return home without a composition, that’s okay, as long as I hear the click of the camera and have fun at the same time.

JB:who is it that inspires you and why?

FH: Well, there’s a couple photographers I used to follow. I became a member of a website “photography-on-the.net/forum”, in 05 and met a couple people there from Scotland and Ireland. There’s this one gentleman in particular, who produced fine art photography and I really admired his work. Everybody’s doing something different. The key isn’t to copy someone's work, but rather use other people’s work as inspiration. If you allow yourself to become inspired, your own style will slowly follow. Do the best you can with what you’ve got and learn from your own mistakes. So practise, practise, practise, and stay humble! And last but not least, it helps to give yourself some time before your post-processing work begins, that way you’ll become less of a critic!

JB: Is that a rule that you follow? I used to edit my photos constantly but then I read somewhere that it’s good to wait a few months before looking at them. I find it helps me be more objective in editing.

FH: I like to give myself a significant amount of time between capturing an image and finalizing the post processing, just so the image becomes new again with a fresh start. I have files at home that I haven’t been processed yet and they’ve been sitting there for months or in some cases, a year.

“The key isn’t to copy someone's work, the key is to use it as inspiration, develop your own niche and your own style."

JB: do you print your photos a lot?

FH: yeah, for me, printing is the last and final process. It’s a lot of fun. Going online or seeing it on a website is fine, it’s a good way for people to view your work. But when you print, you see the fruits of your labor come to life.

I did an exhibition in Alberta in ‘09, which was a lot of fun. It was an art gallery that was newly open. At the time, I was fortunate enough to have met an artist from Russia who has done exhibitions in Russia, Malaysia, US and Canada. She was a painter and wanted a photographer whose work closely related to the subjects she painted. The theme would be “Fire and Ice”. Her sunset/sunrise paintings would represent fire and my iceberg images would represent ice. I received the invitation via email to ask if I would be interested in joining her as a duo artist for the grand opening. Unfortunately, I was late opening the email and missed the deadline. It wasn’t long after when I was invited again by the same gallery to do a second exhibition. It was a great experience and I even thought about doing one here in Corner Brook.

JB: Tell me about your workflow for creating images.

FH: I prefer to keep my images as natural looking as possible with a twist of artist flare thrown in for good measure. I like to keep things fairly basic and don’t like to get to complicated with my workflow.

JB: What is it that brought you to Newfoundland? Were you born here?

FH: Yes, born and raised. But, like many Newfoundlanders, I was interested in exploring and working in different parts of the country. Seeing new things and meeting new people is always good for the soul. I’ve met many artists and photographers on my journey and shared a wealth of information. It was a great experience.

I was home on vacation a few years ago when I decided to stay. Newfoundland is certainly a photogenic place with compositions everywhere you look, but like anything else, ya have to be patient.

JB: let’s talk about criticism

FH: Sometimes artists can be their own worst critic. Over the years I’ve learned to use criticism to my advantage, weather it be positive or negative. Once you find your style. run with it and perfect it.

“Don’t put up any boundaries to your imagination, even if it requires you getting up at 4 in the morning and sitting in the freezing cold. Rain, Fog, snow, whatever, it’s all fun.”

JB:I saw you had a series of black and white photos of flowers and they looked like they were done in a studio

FH:That was a project I started while living in northern Alberta where landscapes are a little on the sparse side. Fairly simple, it consisted of a backdrop and natural lighting. When it came time for the post processing, I realized color was too distracting, so I decided on a B&W approach, focusing more on shades and textures.  

JB: Why do you put your photographs into the world?

FH: More and more people wanted to see my work, so what better way than an online portfolio? For the longest time I was just as happy printing and storing my images on hard drives, but to have an online portfolio was a presentation that I was experimenting with to share with family and friends.

“Art will never die because of technology. The medium may die but the desire to create art will live on.”

JB: Tell me about your iceberg photographs, you have a lot of them.

FH: I really enjoy photographing icebergs. The white of an iceberg with the surrounding light makes them such a challenging subject to photograph. I prefer to find a composition that will encompass an iceberg into the landscape and not necessarily make it the main focal point.

Icebergs are a dying breed so I feel it’s important for me to photograph them whenever I can. The one great thing about composing for icebergs is that the image that’s captured will never be captured again. They’re a “one and only.” And of course there’s a story behind all of them!

“ Landscape photographers are solitary artists. They travel by themselves, work by themselves, and most of whom I’ve spoken with, prefer it that way. And that’s the way I like it as well.”

I’ve done a few pictures around the Blow Me Down Mtns, but there’s one in particular that I’d been waiting to do for a couple years. I just needed the right conditions. That’s the great thing about landscape photography, sometimes you get it and sometimes you don’t, it’s always a challenge.

JV: Do you go to the same spot multiple times?

FH: Oh yes, many times! There’s one I did in Bonavista that wasn’t the safest place to get yourself into, tripod at the edge of the cliff, a gale force wind blowing and only a 3 ft sq area to huddle around your tripod to prevent camera shake. It was a difficult spot to make an image. But, after making numerous trips over a 5 year span, I eventually got the picture I envisioned. It was a great feeling to walk away with the picture I’d been waiting for that took so long to get.

“With photography, composition is everything. If you don’t have a composition, you don’t have an image.”

You can see more of Frank's great work on his website

http://www.afrankvernoncollection.com/