A few basic facts about Francis Ford

So Once Upon A Time …

Born in 1945 in Milwaukee.

Worked as a stringer for the wire services AP and UPI from 1967 to 1971.

Sometimes it is astounding how the basic facts tell us nothing. The facts above have only taken the story to the beginning of Francis Ford's career in photography. Even then, the fact that he worked as a stringer in the late 1960's doesn't reveal the truth that covering the 1968 Democratic National Convention had a profound effect on the man. He was in the center of the tear-gassed police riot that was Chicago's Grant Park during that event, and would just happen to be back there four decades later for a huge, happy celebration the night Obama was elected President. The contrast couldn't have been starker but the focus, as always, was perfect. Same park, full circle, framing forty years of Ford's life so far.

Contrast. Focus. Frames. Workmanship - more importantly: not working for anyone else, which is something Ford hasn't really done since working at Kmart photo department in the early 70s. Even then, he transformed and redeemed the experience by assembling The Kmart Collectables, an exhibit of quirky snapshot from the multitude of random customer orders he handled there. He approached Ivan Karp at O.K Harris Gallery in New York and got an exhibit in 1977.

During the well-attended reception, Andy Warhol and Jasper Johns just happened to be across the street for Warhol's own opening at New York's then-premiere gallery, Leo Castelli. Maybe bored, just needing a break or simply wondering what the fuss over at Ivan's was about, Warhol and Johns drifted over to O.K Harris. The pair of famous artists lingered for a long time over Ford's hoard of found photo (a sub-field of outsider art that has since become a genre), Warhol more than the painterly Johns, despite their previous personal commitments.

That exhibit is legend in Milwaukee art circles, though Ford dismisses its important with his usual mix of reticence, self-effacement and quite subtle pride. Francis Ford speaks so softly that sometimes, if you listen closely, you can hear a name drop. There's no hubris, the fact is he knows so many names, often by photographing the faces connected to them.

The man sold a portrait of Richard Avedon to Richard Avedon - take that, Dull World! Hah! It's likely you didn't know Avedon personally, nor John Waters, Cheech Marin, Willem Dafoe and so many others, past and present, local and international. On the Kevin Bacon/six degrees of separation scale, if you know Francis Ford you know these people in the second degree (worse, you know Geraldo Rivera in the third degree).

Would you take advantage of that? No you wouldn't Never happen, Sir. You'd have to know him and to know him is to establish a bond, a trust you wouldn't violate. The man is not a stepping stone. That's not how his magic works. Call it the Francis Ford Effect. There's something you trust about the man implicitly when you meet him, and if you haven't met him, now is a good time to go up and introduce yourself. He's good luck.

This is an exhibit of people who have influenced and affected Francis Ford and that, fellow human, is a two way street.

Kent Mueller 2009