interviews with artists
A conversation with Frank Dimarco November 5, 2012
I met with 68 year-old Frank DiMarco for breakfast near the home he's lived in with his wife Lucinda for 17 years in the Richmond neighborhood of Southeast Portland.
DiMarco was most recently shooting on the set for the television show "Portlandia", for the Independent Film Channel. "It's an industry that doesn't care how old you are" he said. The job came when someone at the Oregon Film Office recommended him to IFC, based on his experience working on other films such as "The Road."
I've always been fascinated by and loved working with artists who seem to evolve with what, in hindsight, seemed like a master plan but was really the ability to seize on the right opportunity.
"It is not something you mark on a calendar" Frank told me, "it's just a natural part of the evolving life cycle"
'So give me your life cycle, Frank', I asked.
After high school in San Francisco Frank joined the Navy, served in the Submarine Service and then went to Annapolis. "After looking at the Navy for 6 years I decided I no longer wanted to be a career naval officer".
"I transferred to U.C. Berkeley, and in 1967 got a camera as a gift from a friend who worked at Kodak. I soon realized that I see the world through a viewfinder. Then I transferred to San Francisco State University."
Majoring in Broadcast Communication Arts at SFSU, even though what he really wanted to be was a photographer. But "you can't take an artist's vow of poverty when you have a wife and newborn son. So I ended up working with my dad's advertising agency in San Francisco".
Working with dad wasn't as fun as it had initially sounded, and one day he saw an ad that Southern Pacific Railway had jobs open. "Their office was two blocks away so I applied that day. I ended up working for SP as an locomotive engineer for 17 years." Frank got to work his own schedule, which gave him time off to still take pictures. S.P. started offering buyouts in 1986 and he went for it.
In 1987 he saw in an ad that United Airlines had jobs opening in customer service. "I applied and was working shortly thereafter."
"I turned my camera on the office and my co-workers, posting the pictures on the bulletin board and in company publications," When the word got out, he was soon doing regular assignments across United's world for the creative services department in Chicago
"I was sent all over the world shooting whatever they needed, for PR, employees, travel shots or meetings and press junkets."
"I took an early retirement in 2002, hung out my shingle in Portland and started working on movies and developing other commercial clients in Portland." I added writing to my skill set and have been a contributing editor for LAX Magazine and am a member of International Food Wine and Travel Writers Association." He also writes a blog called frankfoodandtravel.com
Always politically involved, DiMarco and a number of local production industry colleagues founded "we-vote.org" in 2003, producing a well-received and nationally-run PSA encouraging young people to register and vote.
Using his bank of stock images, Frank developed a card line some years ago, but "it's now mostly recreational". It's great business if you want a career to make in "the tens of dollars" he said. "I did go the the National Stationary Show in New York and did acquire some reps, but mostly I do it for fun and friends."
Chance favors the prepared mind, I have always told artists. On a referral from the Oregon Film Commission, Frank got a call from the Independent Film Channel. He responded that day with everything the client needed to make their decision, and "within 2 days I was shooting on location"
As the only still photographer on the set of "Portlandia" he and has to carry his "whole kit" in a backpack "because you never know what you will shoot next." The other cameras operators in the photograph are shooting video, using Canon EOS C300 dedicated video cameras from Koerner Cameras.
"On the Portlandia set I shoot with two Canon 5Ds with a Canon 24- 70mm 2.8 lens and a Canon 70-200mm 2.8 lens. I use the cameras in a sound blimp from Jacobson Photographic Instruments in North Hollywood CA. Back in the studio I download images into Adobe Lightroom 3 and, after editing, upload to the proprietary Independent Film Channel FTP site".
Since they could pull still images from the video, I asked Frank if that might eliminate the still photographers. "My job may go away, but it's a priority situation. I go home at night and need to quickly edit and furnish digital images of all my daily work, and the film guys may have differing schedules and priorities."
The burning question now challenging Frank is "What do I do with the thousands of images I have". He is scanning them to put in a book, maybe to catch the wave of hand-made books that is gaining traction.