'Broken' by Jon Frank
One of the old truisms that the internet age has laid to rest is this: the cream always rises to the top.
Some of it may, but only when the artist has got talent and social media play. Because without an extrovert's sense of promotion, art, regardless of its quality, will be lost amongst the ceaseless static of the internet. And if you're not on the internet you may as well be invisible, right?
Jon Frank probably wont mind when I say he's got no social media play. Oh he's there on the internet alright, but subtlety, as an old friend used to say, sleeps alone, so Franky's work simply doesn't get the online love it deserves.
Which brings me to his book, Broken, (Volume 1). The title of which could refer to the disruption of his art but he assures us that it simply refers to the fact that waves break. If so, it's the most literal thing in the whole 150 pages.
The foreword is written by Andrew Kidman who supplies the historical context, and it's only fitting 'cos through the early-90s Kidman and Frank had a Marr/Morrissey thing happening. At Waves magazine, photographer Frank laid the colour to complement Kidman's reflective lyrics. Fellas were a formidable double act.
And even though this is a photographic book the text doesn't end there. What many don't know is that Frank himself can write. That he's a master at the oblique, beat-style vignette, the observation that sort of applies to the photo at hand but not in a way that you were expecting
"They're not so much captions," Franky says of his own musings, "but anchors to try and slow the page-turning down a tad." It's an explanation that reeks of yet more self-deprecation, though his written interludes have the desired effect.
Slow down the page-turning and what you see is ocean art that'd make a #nofilter Instagrammer weep. The hash tag enforced by technology, or a lack of it when Franky was nurturing his talent: no auto focus, digital ISO, or post processing to make the photos pop. Not even a jet ski to whisk him out of harm's way - see photo below for instance.
And this is why context is so important. What are the circumstances behind an image? In a world where everything can be faked, authenticity becomes a value add to the experience.
As Kidman says, "Jon Frank's pictures have always felt like his struggle to attain them. Perhaps that is why today they continue to make us feel something deeper." And it's also why Broken feels like an inversion of Instagram, a place where restraint and subtlety are valued, words work like roundabouts, and where dark humour feels right at home.
Frank dishes out the latter, mostly on himself, especially in an extended interview with Sean Doherty that completes the book.