Frank Franca Discusses the #helloicp Project on the Bowery [INTERVIEW]

Posted on: October 9th, 2015 at 5:19 am by

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Frank Franca. Photo: Lori Greenberg.

About a week ago, we noticed a new installation in the windows of 250 Bowery, aka the future home of the International Center of Photography. The eye-catching #helloicp installation was created by photographer and long time East Village resident, Frank Franca. We decided to meet with Franca and find out more about both the project and the artist.

Franca moved to the neighborhood in 1982 to get his degree in film-making at NYU. After college, he immediately started working as a photographer, showing work in various galleries, both in London and back home in the ‘hood. Some of his projects have been rather powerful, including co-creating “Electric Blanket” in 1990, which he describes as “an epic scale public art slide show I worked on with Nan Goldin and a few other friends.”

Projected on the wall of Cooper Union, the project “was meant as photographers’ activist art in response to the AIDS crisis, and as a call for action. It was made up of the work of many photographers all over the world dealing with the impact of AIDS.”

Around the same time, Franca became a member of the Visual AIDS Artist’s Caucus. “With them, we created the Red Ribbon Project for AIDS awareness. It was a public art activist project, also about AIDS, but which took a very different approach. Since then, many other ‘ribbon awareness’ projects have been launched. But people often forget that the Red Ribbon was the first one.”

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#helloicp installation. Photo: Lori Greenberg.

His latest creative outlet, #helloicp, was inspired by sixteen years of experiences while teaching at ICP. Participants can go to the #helloicp website or to Instagram (adding the hashtag #helloicp to their photos) and upload images, which will then live stream to the installation on the Bowery.

Explaining his history at ICP, Franca told us “There I became part of a community of photographers unlike anything that exists anywhere else in the world. There I found colleagues who shared my passions, and who supported and nurtured me. Over the years, I have watched that community grow. We are scattered all over the planet, but we all still maintain the strong bonds we established at ICP. There is a genuine feeling of affection for each other and for the institution that made it possible for us to connect.”

#helloicp began when Mark Lubell, ICP’s Executive Director, and Peggy Anderson, a former ICP student of Franca’s – and now a trustee and officer on ICP’s Board of Directors – asked Franca to suggest an idea for the windows at 250 Bowery. Wanting to pay tribute to the special ICP community, and also to embrace the larger community of photographers around the world, he realized that Instagram combined with a live feed was a perfect vehicle.

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Image courtesy of http://www.helloicp.com/live-feed/

“I called it #helloicp because it sounded sweet and friendly. And also, as an acknowledgement of welcoming ICP into my community, I wanted it to be an interactive public art project. My references were street art and murals and graffiti, but also the stained glass windows used in different types of public arenas [such as] places of worship. I was particularly thinking of the beautiful stained glass windows in Antoni Gaudí’s Sagrada Familia in Barcelona.

“Both Mark and Peggy have given me total creative control. Working with them and ICP has been a real pleasure. Nobody could have done more to help me get this done. I am very proud of what we accomplished.”

Franca also shared with us what an emotional experience this has been. “You have an Israeli mom, liking photos from Iran. You have someone from South Africa, liking something from a person in Brazil. There’s a girl in the middle of the Himalayas who is sending me her photos.

“I think there’s a place for these micro communities,” said Franca. “There’s love there.”

#helloicp is currently on view until the end of October at 250 Bowery. The installation is lit every night from 5:30pm until 1:00am. To upload photos and to view the images already online, check out the #helloicp website and Instagram.

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