In a Facebook post, photographer Frankinsella — Fran to his friends — mentions that a favourite quote of his is: “Old goths never die, they just fade to grey”.
But the chances of such a thing happening to this consummate creator of alternative subculture imagery — whose work is nothing if not colourful — seem pretty remote. Even if he does own up to the ‘old goth’ soubriquet.
His talent sort of crept up on me. Various individual examples of his work had for sure appeared on my radar in earlier times, but it wasn’t until the back end of 2016, when I was researching pictures for The Fetishistas’ January 2017 cover story on Dani Divine, that his artistry fully revealed itself to me.
Of the hundreds — possibly even thousands — of images of Dani I scrolled through for that article, nothing jumped out at me like the Frankinsella shoot with her from which I chose our cover/banner image.
Combining House of Harlot latex and Metamorph Quirky Couture feather headdress with deepest black eye make-up and lipstick, this shoot offered a representation of Dani’s goth beauty that I felt was more timeless and profound than anyone had captured before.
After this, Frankinsella’s work caught my eye and impressed me with increasing regularity, and in due course it became clear to me that he was a thoroughly deserving candidate for a Fetishistas cover splurge. So here it is…
I begin our interview by asking Fran if his interest in photographing subcultures such as goth and fetish evolved from a prior interest in photography. Or did prior involvement in those subcultures prompt a desire to depict them by becoming a photographer?
“My photographic journey is intimately intertwined with the goth scene and my identify as a goth,” he answers.
“I have been going to Whitby Goth Weekend since the mid ’90s (still going every year, when we aren’t in lockdown) and never initially had any particular interest in photography.
“But by the mid-noughties I was regularly carrying a compact camera around with me to gigs and festivals, as the person who took photos of our friendship circle for social media.
“One Sunday afternoon at a Whitby Goth Weekend I put my camera down on a table and someone accidentally spilled a pint of Snakebite and Black over it, which didn’t do it any good at all!”
At this point, he says, he had a choice: to simply get a replacement compact or — as he was taking a lot of photos — invest in something a bit better.
“I’d been using an Olympus Mju series compact, and looking through a camera magazine at the new cameras, I saw the newly released entry level Olympus E520 DSLR. I got one of them and started playing with it.”
The next significant step in Fran’s photographic journey also involved the goth scene. He explains:
“For a few years after getting my DSLR, I played around with all sorts of different styles of photography and did several years of ‘photo a day’ projects to try and improve.
“Around the mid-2010s, a couple of female friends from the goth scene started modelling.
“I looked at the shots they were getting, working in studios with sophisticated lighting set-ups, and realised I didn’t have a clue how to shoot anything like that.
“So I set myself the challenge of trying to learn, mostly just to prove that I could.
“As my friends were on PurplePort [model and photography networking site], I set up a profile on there and then did literally nothing with it for six months as I didn’t know how to get started with it. I guess I was a bit intimidated really.“
Then one day a model local to Frankinsella on the South Coast posted a casting call wanting to do a shoot with stripy light.
“I had the idea I could use a computer projector for this and answered her. We did a shoot in the basement in her house and got some fab results, but felt we could do better with a bit more space.
“The model had shot the week before in a studio in Southampton, so we booked a slot there and shot a better version of our shoot. The studio owner was quite fascinated by what we were doing with projected images and was really helpful.”
It wasn’t long before Fran booked the studio for another shoot, then another, then another…
“And before long I was a member at the studio,” he says, “shooting often enough to have my own keys and shooting really
regularly. Shooting with models was something that escalated quickly!”
Since then, he says, most of his photography has been in studios or on location, with only very occasional forays into shooting at events.
“Working with different themes,” he continues, “I quickly realised that the darker gothic/fetish aesthetic I had grown up with and was used to from the goth scene was a very natural thing for me to shoot, and something I enjoyed shooting. So my photography just naturally gravitated in that direction.
“What started mostly as trying to prove to myself and my friends that I could do something just took off, and I am still shooting lots and really enjoying it!”
When I tell Fran that his Dani Divine shot for our January 2017 cover story was what really put him properly on my radar, he tells me that this shoot with Dani was something of a milestone for him too.
“That was a really memorable shoot,” he says. “I remember Dani had put a post on Facebook asking who would like to work with her that year, and where they lived.
“I put my name and where I was based, not thinking that anything would come of it. Later that year however, Dani was going to be down in my area; she got in touch and we set up a shoot.
“Dani was shooting in Southsea and we worked out that the closest studio was actually over in Ryde on the Isle of Wight. So we hopped over on the hovercraft to shoot there and then got sunset shots on the beach.
“I think in that shoot, I realised that aesthetically, what I was shooting really resonated with me. Having shot quite a range of styles, I consider that the gothic/fetish style sits most comfortably with me.”
While Frankinsella acknowledges that it was his subculture interests that pushed him towards photography, that of course doesn’t preclude also being influenced by other photographers along the way.
And it turns out that one of his earliest significant photographer influences was directly related to his choice of Olympus kit: the company’s then chief photographer Damien McGillicuddy.
“As Olympus were very active in organising events and shoots, I went to a lot of workshops with him as instructor,” Fran explains.
“It actually took me years of my own photographic journey to fully understand and appreciate what he was getting at in some of the things he was teaching then.
“Damien would also regularly shoot with Ulorin Vex when she was in the UK. So a couple of my first proper shoots with latex were at his workshops, before I had really started model photography myself.
Shooting these, Fran says, enabled him to start developing an appreciation of the unique way latex interacts with light and its environment.
“More recently,” he adds, “I have been inspired by the work of Alejandra Guerrero and her Wicked Women book.” (Hmm, that name rings a bell for some reason…)
There’s no doubt in my mind that the path he followed from taking snaps of his mates at early Whitby Goth Weekends to shooting with some of today’s highest-profile alt models has made him into a damned fine photographer.
So I ask him what, for him, are the qualities that determine ‘a good image’ within the fetish/goth genres.
“I think that the nature of a fetish/goth image is defined by the subject, context and story of the image,” he says.
“Beyond that, many of the considerations around composition, lighting, backgrounds and bringing all the elements together, etc, are common to most types of photography.
“Though I think that there are unique ways of lighting latex, for example, that are pretty specific to the genre.
“I think a good image is something that works in layers or levels. It needs to be sufficiently visually striking at first glance to make you stop and want to look at it, and this is probably mostly about composition and colour at the lowest level.
“Beyond that the image should engage you through the subject and context, lead your eye on a journey around it and let you come away with the story of the image.”
Use BUTTON BELOW to continue reading interview, or SCROLL DOWN for Page 1 Galleries and Frankinsella FavesREAD MORE – GO TO PAGE 2 OF 3
PHOTO GALLERIES – EDITOR’S NOTE: In each gallery, images are arranged alphabetically by model name. Many individual photo captions also contain additional info provided by the photographer, such as locations and comments about the image or shoot. Fran chose the image categories that provide our gallery titles and he also chose the images to fit in each category. Intentionally, different images from a single shoot sometimes appear in more than one gallery, reflecting different visual styles produced from that one shoot.
The first of three panels in which the photographer comments on favourite shots from the galleries on each page, starting with the two Latex galleries below
Ashley Bad and FD Maika at Murder Mile – New York and Tokyo in London This shot is a fave because it’s from the most international shoot I’ve done — with Ashley over from the States and Maika from Japan, along with Ruby Alexia (not in this shot).
Dani Divine at The Nightingale I’ve shot with Dani a few times when she has been down my way to perform and party at The Nightingale on the Isle of Wight, and we have always got awesome shots. The hotel decor provides a fantastic place to shoot which complements Dani’s style perfectly.
Natasha Kalashnikova I love this shot as it was the first time I used multiple ring lights, which I have used many times since in all sorts of ways. I had one and Natasha also had one so we tried putting them together. We found that the combination of the two created some interesting lighting and was fabulous for creating foreground flare with a crystal. I really love how this shot came out.
in, which have all been incredible to shoot in. This was one of my first times shooting latex and I really loved this set, with Natasha playing a cat posing on kitchen work surfaces, and the kitchen’s amazing coloured mood lighting featuring in the shot and reflecting on the work surfaces. I love using coloured light and things like reflections.
Psycatt at London’s Le Boutique Bazaar Psycatt is someone else I have worked with many times in lots of different places and is a really cool collaborator. I love this shot especially because of the coloured lights and how the flare and Psycatt’s pose complement them.
xx_blasphemer_xx I loved playing with light and colours for this set. I’ve worked with Harriet so many times and we always have lots of fun shooting. I really love this shot because of how the accessories we found like the umbrella, the lighting style and the colours all come together with the fabulous latex outfit.
ON PAGE 2: Our Frankinsella interview continues PLUS: Four more galleries devoted to Domme Style & Gothic/Alt Vampire imagery… and more Frankinsella Faves