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Tuesday, November 5, 2013

For The Love Of It

Frank Smith brings a passion and purpose to his photography that proves the true meaning of the word “amateur”

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Meet Frank Smith, and you understand why amateurs have always been the driving force behind photography's progress, whether as art, science or business. Smith brings an energy and a passion to his photography that professionals, however much they love what they do, tend to lose to the day in and day out of a career. "I've made a conscious effort not to do photography as a career," says Smith, who's certainly good enough to do so. "I wanted to be very careful to always photograph what I like and not be tainted by whether or not my images will sell."

That's not to say his images don't sell. Smith's handsome prints, which range in subject matter from landscapes to portraits, are used for fundraising by organizations as varied as the March of Dimes and the Allentown Art Museum, the latter a short drive from his home in the former steel town of Bethlehem, Pennsylvania. Smith has traveled overseas to do documentary photography for nonprofits working to end the Asian sex trade, fund African libraries and help Haitian children recover from injuries sustained in that desperate island's recent earthquake. Yet to avoid even the slightest temptation of profiting from his work, Smith has set up a trust that donates any money it earns to charity, with the biggest recipients being The Salvation Army, Big Brothers Big Sisters and B-Smart, a local art program for children at risk.

Frank Smith brings his traveler's eye to all of the photos he takes. Whether he's shooting in India, Asia or the Poconos, Smith's photos show a sensitivity for his surroundings. The Northeast native is an Olympus shooter who calls the Olympus OM-D E-M5 his workhorse.
From Film To Digital
The photographer's passion was nurtured by a much-loved grandfather. When Smith was just three or four years old, his grandfather gave him a toy camera made to look like a 35mm SLR. "I would follow him around and shoot whatever he did," Smith recalls. "The only difference, which I didn't understand at the time, was that my camera had no film in it!"

The camera had a viewfinder, though, and it was the art of photography more than its nuts and bolts that grandson absorbed from grandfather. "I learned mostly about composition, by imitating his framing," says Smith.

As a school-age photographer, Smith went on to use real film, shooting his family's holidays and vacations. In high school, he took a part-time job selling cameras. "I got to play with all the different models that were available," he remembers. "Based on that experience, I decided to buy a Minolta SRT101." That classic 35mm SLR, with its match-needle metering and mechanical shutter, was Smith's workhorse for two decades.

During high school and after, Smith took other photo-related jobs, even doing some shooting for portrait studios. In his late 20s, though, his attention turned mostly to his growing career in commercial and industrial real estate, from which he has earned a living for 35 years. As his family grew, he started shooting more, mainly snapshots.


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