The Interview

LBTL: It’s very interesting that there are two photographers in the Franco family — you and your sister, Natalie Franco. Have the two of you ever worked together? If so, what was the project? If not, what would be the project?

nicole francoYes, two sister Latina photographers is not often heard of. This is a direct result our parents unwavering support through our continued artist career.

It’s funny, we’ve worked together a lot but never collaborated collectively on producing a body of work… yet. But, I feel like we’ve been in this together since we started. I think it’s honest to say that, we’ve been involved in each other’s every body of work. Whether brainstorming about project ideas, editing (this one is huge), proofreading content, really, nothing gets thrown out into the world unless it gets the approval from the other.

And, trust me, a lot of work doesn’t get the approval :-)

We’re each other biggest fan but toughest critic. It’s to the point, now, where we don’t even try to defend the work, that’s how much we trust and I think ultimately respect each others craft. I’ve come to appreciate and find the humor in Nat’s simple, “keep working on it” or “that’s all??” and then there’s just the, “nope.”

When I get these, I know I need to reassess the work. I think we’re waiting for that perfect opportunity, story, concept to find us where we’re both also in the same country for the needed amount of time so we can give the project everything we can. All I can say at this point, is that it will definitely be portrait driven and Nat will do most of the writing.

LBTL: Your current project — documents the water crisis in Mexico. What was the impetus for the project?

nicole francoI moved to San Miguel De Allende, Mexico about 9 months ago. My moved was rather sudden and unexpected but very exciting. After settling in and acclimating to Mexican life, I started thinking about my next project. I took my time, researched and found that one of the most pressing issues here in Mexico, but particularly specific to the high desert mountains, was the water crisis.

The arid terrain is unforgiving and over 400 communities struggle for accessibility to clean water.

Today, both the surface and subterranean water are drying up at an alarming rate and the water that remains is highly contaminated from years of mining, overgrazing and pollution. While also, deforestation, erosion and excessive extraction greatly add to the reduction. Initiatives like harvesting rainwater have greatly attributed to improvements in quality of life, however, rain falls in abundance only once a season.

The issue is so complex that at first, I was feeling very overwhelmed, which was apparent in my images. I was trying to document all the contributing factors and it wasn’t until I met a family who welcomed me into their lives, my story took the turn it needed. It brought the story down to a personal level.

LBTL: In Portraits From Mexico, your images are painful. As you walk me through the images — I feel a sense of deep despair and loss. Was that the narrative you were trying to convey?

nicole francoYes, and nostalgia. The images were taken in Guanajuato and San Miguel De Allende a few years ago. It’s the birthplace of my great grandparents. And for this reason, I feel a deep sense of connection to this part of Mexico.

I lost my grandparents when I was a little girl. Though our time together was brief their lives and death had a tremendous and traumatic weight in my life. My grief for them manifests in the images. In connecting the family lineage, I felt close to them there. I looked for them, I saw their faces there. Walking through the streets was, in a way, sorrowful but welcomed.

LBTL: You have an impressive list of commercial clients, such as Microsoft and The Wall Street Journal. What recommendations would you give young Latina photographers when pursuing clients?

The same thing that everyone always says, “It’s about being a person that people want to work with.”

nicole francoAttitude truly takes you so much of the way. There are hundreds of hundreds of photographers to choose from when clients are looking to book. With all the amazing talent out there, the greatest asset you have to help set you apart is your personality. People want to work with people they like, have confidence, listen well, and have a definitive style.

I believe, that if you work hard and commit to creating meaningful imagery with integrity, tenacity and honesty, those qualities will manifest in your work and will do so with significance. Find the connection between you and your work, understand it and learn how to articulate and introduce it to an audience.

And, embrace being Latina. We are a unique minority in this field. Utilize that distinction instead of feeling hindered because of it.

LBTL: You have taught workshops at the SnapShop — what are the 3 most important pieces of information that you want young Latina photographers, to walk away with?

I’m so grateful for my time spent with The Lucie Foundation, SnapShop! program. It’s so amazing to work with youth and with organizations that are so crazy excited and passionate about photography and photographers.

One

It’s not about your gear. Owning a $5,000.00 camera is not going to promise award-winning images. The price tag on your gear never determines your success. Learn to adapt with what’s available to you. There’s wonderful programs and resources out there waiting and wanting to help foster your craft.

Two

nicole francoDon’t have a passport… don’t worry, you don’t need one. You don’t have to trek the mountains of Nepal or plains of Africa to create beautiful images. I couldn’t stress enough to my students the amount of stories waiting to be told in the everyday world around them.

Some of the most moving imagery I’ve ever seen, is when the photographer opens a view into their home, family members and or when the photographer becomes the subject. Photographing the absolute familiar is actually more of a challenge then photographing the unknown.

Three

Find someone to champion you.

Being a photographer is a marathon and you need people in your life to keep you reaching. Whether it’s family, a friend, other photographers, an art instructor, find someone to help nurture your goals. Artists need affirmation and I’m not talking about the kind through publication and or awards, though, those are great.

I’m talking about affirmation in your efforts and dedication. Yes, in the end you yourself are the determining factor but support is critical.

Call To Action

The two most important takeaways from my interview with Nicole are: 1 – be the person that people want to work with and 2 — find your champion. Why — because without these two pillars you will be 1/2 the artist you are meant to become.

So my challenge to you is find your champion and work on building your emotional intelligence.