Technology has taken the art form of photography to new heights, and new lows. Now everyone thinks they have the “eye” that with a click of the phone they have taken a photograph of the century.
But a good relationship with the craft develops with time, passion, and experience. It takes practice to develop an aesthetic technique and style.
As you build your portfolio a photographer tends to become known for a style, for Andrea Francolini, he is known for his sailing photography, legendary action shots, and award-winning perspective.
What happens when a pandemic takes over the world, and a career that meant you were travelling up to 100 days a year, ceases to exist? You remind yourself how much your passion means to you, and you take what was a part-time, as a requested project to the mainstream.
Mum, knows best – finding a passion.
I don’t recall when I fell in love with photography but I do remember seeing a picture from Sebastiao Salgado in a gallery when I was very young. It was a black and white print and the image really stuck with me.
70’s New York was booming with exhibitions. My mum took me to see the masters of art as a kid, under the bribery of dinosaurs and knights in armour after, unconsciously it was having an impact.
When I turned 16 my mother asked me if I wanted a camera for my birthday and I clearly remember saying: “What am I going to do with a camera”? Turns out she knew more than I.
Learning without the internet.
I started when there was still film and no internet, I read magazines. Then every picture I took I wrote down what I did, so I could go over it when I got the film back and tried to figure out what went wrong or right.
A career by necessity.
Photography became part of what I did to compliment my work. While I was a graphic designer I had clients in West Africa. One day I asked a client if we could buy some stock images to make the cover of their brochure more attractive.
Learning that I took photos, he sent me to West Africa for 3 weeks to shoot everything I needed.
What is it about the medium that fascinates you?
Photography brings joy. It’s my way of seeing things, how I travel. I never go away without a camera.
Where did your love of sailing photography come from?
I failed at dinghy sailing with my cousin, I put one foot on the boat, slipped and fell in the water. He left me on the dock with a camera. I took pictures of the boats passing by. I had no idea of what I was doing but I just did it. Afterwards a mother came up to me and wanted shots of her son. I ran to the chemist, processed the film and sold her two prints.
The rest is history!
A style evolution ahead of its time.
My style has always delivered full action and detail. Then of course you take those static images too, but I have always wanted people to open a magazine or web site and think the boat is jumping out towards them!
Where do you feel traditional photography fits into the digital/smart world?
I still shoot films for my personal work. Only for portraits. I like it, I like the darkroom and the imperfections film photography has. Traditional photography is a big part of galleries or collectors’ homes. We know that a silver gelatin prints will last 100 years or more because we have proof of it. We still don’t know if inkjet will last as it has not been around long enough.
Your profession has taken you around the world, your sailing/yachting photos are legendary. Why this genre?
How water reacts, no wave is the same, no boat is the same, the weather conditions always change. Let’s be honest when you can call Sydney harbour, Tahiti or Sardinia your office it is quite easy to understand why.
What is the hardest part of your chosen career?
The dead moments. In the end you only shoot maybe 30% of the time. The rest is spent on getting organized, marketing, etc. I often would like an agent so I can focus on the images and not the logistics. You never know it might come soon (hint for anyone out there)!
When Covid-19 hit, how did it impact you and your plans?
I used to spend 70-90 days on the water a year, that has obviously stopped. I have not been on a boat since March 2020. Do I miss it? Hell, yes but luckily, my experiences allow for adjustments.
At what stage did you realise that Covid-19 was going to go on longer than expected and you would need to adjust your business model? What industries did you consider?
The first two months of lockdown were quite easy to be honest. No one really knew what was going on even though we saw what was happening in Europe. I was homeschooling my daughter so my focus was on her and I tried to contact people but no one answered.
After 3 months I started realising that there would not be any sailing events any time soon. Contacts began asking me to take their portraits for a new profile or job. I expanded my business to corporate and profiles, as both can be done safely with Covid-19 restrictions.
At first budgets were tight and there was caution, but slowly it took off, the government programs certainly helped. Soon a friend told a friend, who told a contact and things started to grow.
Did you try any other options before you shifted to the Corporate market and why?
No, I went into portraits 100% without looking back. I once had the pleasure to hear a very famous fashion designer who said that each time he launched a new product he would only count on that product for his company to survive. For some reason that stuck in my mind so when sailing stopped, I gave portraits 100% of my effort and, in my mind, I had to survive with it. Like starting over. I love a challenge and this was no different.
What other areas do you work in? How does your style change from different genres?
I also love shooting architecture. There too, I use different techniques to visit amazing places. Working in the different genres is very stimulating; action, corporate, profile and architecture, all require a different eye, it’s very fulfilling and I feel like I am always learning my craft.
Diverse projects = continued growth; Eye2Eye, I am who I am, While you were sleeping, Operation Restore Hope – where have these come from?
These are all personal projects. A photographer always has personal projects in order to keep his creativity (read: sanity) intact.
Eye2Eye is what got me into portraits and one day I had a good break shooting a TV presenter from Channel 7 in Sydney and I ended up shooting quite a lot of her colleagues.
Then somehow, I shot Gladys Berejiklian, Ita Buttrose, etc…it was a great learning curve for me as some portraits were shot in less than 30 seconds!
What does the rest of 2020 look like for you? 2021?
Ha the rest of 2020! Can we fast forward it please? We are all in this together. I firmly believe people will slowly become more confident and things will pick up. We still have to be careful but business will start again.
Interested in reaching out to Andrea?
Award Winning, there are too many to list across all genres below are 2019 highlights.
2019 One Eyeland Awards – 2nd place – Portrait
2019 Budapest Foto Awards – 1st place – Portrait
2019 Australian Photo Awards – Honourable mention – Portrait
2019 Honourable mention IPA (New York) – Portrait category
2019 Bowness Finalist – winner announced in Oct
2019 – Monash art gallery Victoria.