Frank Matagrano, although a New Yorker by birth, only began photographing life around him when he moved to Orlando, Florida. As the "capital of theme parks", Orlando offers endless opportunities to capture quirky moments. Frank´s colourful images with a superb eye for detail often make the viewer smile. Frank goes out without a concepts and without an agenda, nothing at all but he is clear about one thing:
"Photography is an accidental autobiography."
Tell us a bit about yourself, where were you born, where do you live now, how did you become interested in photography?
I was born in New York. Before moving to Florida a couple of years ago, I lived in Chicago for a little over fifteen years. And it wasn’t until I moved here that photography even was a thought for me. In short, my sister influenced me to start taking photos, and I was just a thing I did while roaming around downtown Orlando. And it grew from there.
Where do you find your inspiration?
Orlando is literally the center for big budget theme parks: Disney, Universal, Sea World, and the like. Previous to Covid, you would find people casually interacting with a variety of pop culture figures like Marilyn Monroe, Scooby Doo, Homer Simpson, among a variety others. In the context of a theme park, it makes perfect sense, but out of context in the photograph, it has a tinge of the unbelievable.
What has been the best advice you have ever received in photography?
I was taught as a child to arrive on time, be punctual. That is the greatest advice given to me in regards to photography which ironically has nothing to do with it. You miss the shot if you show up late. So be there, be on time, be present.
What is it that you enjoy about street photography. What happens when you walk the streets with your camera? Explain your technique? Have you ever had a negative encounter?
Surprisingly, I have never had a negative experience thus far. I spent a weekend in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania right before Covid and was roaming around one of their big markets taking random shots. An individual approached me, but was very civil; I deleted the photo and that was that.
Shooting in a theme park as if you were shooting street provides you with a freedom that you don’t necessarily have in downtown Orlando or Philadelphia or Chicago. You are 'expected' to have a camera in those spaces. Funny enough, when I was roaming around Philadelphia, I had to remind myself that this was not a theme park and had to readjust my approach to something more discreet.
For me, photography is just as much about the hunt as it is about the catch. And it’s the rush of enthusiasm that I enjoy, the endless possibilities that could come with a chance collision. Street photography is the perpetual maybe.
Do you have any favourite spots in Florida and outside of Florida to go photographing? How has the pandemic affected you and your photography?
As I mentioned earlier, I love the theme parks. The juxtaposition between ordinary and surreal is fantastic. Before Covid, Lake Eola Park in Orlando was a wonderful place: Farmers Markets every weekend, all sorts of events. I also enjoyed just roaming around downtown. You’ve got that classic old school architecture with a diverse portfolio of people there.
During Covid, I’ve been less willing to roam for obvious reasons. That said, masks and the distancing has altered what I capture, so when I do shoot these days, I try to find ways to compensate for the loss of seeing the full face of an individual.
What do you want to express through your photography? And what are some of the elements you always try to include in your photographs?
It’s a really selfish act, to be honest. I’m not trying to express anything, I’m trying to collect history. Moments long gone at my disposal. I strive to include a modicum of the surreal in a shot – earlier I said a tinge of the unbelievable – thereby making the story more interesting. You know, that whole picture is worth a thousand words sentiment.
Do you have any favourite artists/photographers?
Martin Parr. The color, the clarity, the outright joy that radiates from some of his photos. It’s infectious.
Are there any books that you have read that have inspired your creativity and that you would like to recommend to us?
Alan Lightman's, Einstein’s Dreams and Gerald Stern, Leaving Another Kingdom. These are books that follow me wherever I go.
Does the equipment you use help you in achieving your vision in your photography? What camera do you use? Do you have a preferred lens/focal length?
I am committed to Fuji. I switch between the X100F and the XT3 depending on location. Aside from the fact that the hardware just feels good in my hand, almost like an extension of my arm, the color saturation levels are top notch and the images are really crisp.
When you go out photographing, do you have a concept in mind of what you want to shoot, or do you let the images just 'come to you', or is it both?
No concepts, no agenda, nothing at all. It’s just another form of fishing, and on a good day, maybe I’ll be lucky enough to actually catch something.
What are some of your goals as an artist? Where do you see yourself or hope to see yourself in five years?
In Christian angelology, there’s this concept of a recording angel, an angel responsible for documenting the actions of each individual on earth. That’s what I think of photography or any medium for that matter. The only goal for me is joy – five years from now, I simply hope to still enjoy this effort, and hopefully I’ll know a little more than I do today.
Are there any special projects you are currently working on that you would like to let everyone know about?
I’m waiting for Covid to turn itself down a notch or three before committing to anything new.
“When I am not out photographing, I (like to)…
Play video games, believe it or not. Deep down inside I’m a twelve-year old boy.