Tuesday, January 4, 2011
Frank Ockenfels: The Great Collaborator
Frank Ockenfels blends light and teamwork to shape his photographs and his career
The process of what happens to Ockenfels’ photographs doesn’t end in an upload to a client or a billboard or even a traditional portfolio. His images often find their home in the personal journals he creates. Though they started as tech notes from shoots, his inclusion of Polaroids, writings, drawings and found items led to the creation of very personal documents of both his professional and personal life. Friends and clients often requested to see these books as much if not more than his latest photographs of famed celebrities.
“The notebooks were basically rants after photo shoots,” explains Ockenfels. “I’d come back from a shoot, basically going through them and thinking about all the things I did or didn’t do. So sometimes I’d come back and would pull elements together, be it anything from a parking stub or a piece of paper I found on the way to the shoot.”
The sharing of these notebooks was limited to what he might happen to have in his bag or his studio, but the advent of digital and an Epson flatbed scanner provided him with the means to create reproductions of these personal pages, not only in printed copies, but also on his website.
“I recently had an exhibition and was able to make editions of the journal pages and sold them,” he says. “People enjoyed seeing them on the walls, but now they could have the opportunity to purchase them and take them home if they wanted.”
Ockenfels’ willingness to take risks and contribute to the concepts presented to him allows the photographer to place his own personal touch on the work that he creates.
“When people look at a small body of work of any photographer and claim that’s who they are as an artist, it doesn’t really define the artist,” he says. “Some people look at Avedon’s work in The American West, and they think ‘4x5 camera and white backdrop,’ and feel that defines the totality of his work. It’s only a small part of what he did. It’s too easy to forget that we’re supposed to have depth and we have to basically do a lot of different work and see differently. I just happen to be a good photographer. People like my work. I got lucky. I got to be the one that the magic wand touched and said, ‘Okay, you be the one.’ But there’s no special reason that I’m the one doing it. I’ve taken the opportunities that people have given me and I’ve gone beyond the expectations of what people thought was supposed to have happened.”
Adds Ockenfels, “The work is being done in an atmosphere of trust and appreciation. It’s amazing that someone is throwing money at me and saying, ‘Go play.’ Occasionally, they’ll put some roadblocks in front of me, but it’s fun to get in there and figure it out.”
To see more of Frank Ockenfels’ photography, go to frankockenfels3.com. Ibarionex Perello is a photographer, a writer and an educator. He’s the producer and host of The Candid Frame photography podcast, www.thecandidframe.com.
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