Groups | Roman Franc

27. 4. 2023 - 11. 6. 2023

The attendees of the world championship in skipping rocks at Hebridy, sidewalk sweepers in Brno, Madeleine Albright, Joan Baez, and other guests of the celebration in the American congress, firefighters from Naloucany with priest during the blessing of the new firefighter car, regulars in a bar in Memphis, huntersfrom three villages with a Lamborgini car, football fans in Vanuatu in the South Pacific…

Photos from the series Groups

Photos from the vernissage of the exhibition Groups

These are some of the types of people that Roman Franc depicts in his new cycle of photographs titled Groups with an incredible sense for light intelligent humor, exaggeration, and with great appreciation for human values and togetherness.

Franc follows up on his previous work, in which portrait, documentary, and staged photography are mingled. More specifically on the extensive cycle in “Sokol movement members”: faithful guard as well as the cycle of absurdly arranged scenes called “My little miracles”. Several humorously staged group photographs were also created within this framework. Franc doesn’t deny his inspiration for many older artworks ranging from amateur images of family gatherings or old photographs of thousands of American soldiers arranged into a variety of signs and images to group portraits from Richard Avedon or Annie Leibovitz. The biggest inspiration, however, was the work of the American photographer Neal Slavin, who stages people in front of a large format camera to various humorous situations within his colorful group portraits. Franc established personal contact with Slavin since he is participating in the creation of a film about Slavin and is trying to organize his exhibition in the Czech Republic.

Roman Franc considers his first image in the cycle Groups to be the portrait of hundreds of attendees of the memorial March of Reconciliation walking from Pohořelice to Brno in May 2015 although some older works could also be included in this collection. The group portrait appeared at the center of Franc’s interest. The author not only intensively increases the number of his photographs with this theme, but also but he is also writing a dissertation on the development of the group portrait as part of his doctoral studies at the Institute of Creative Photography of the University of Silesia in Opava. Along with his friend and classmate Gabriel Fragner, he founded a two-member group FRA FRA in 2020, within which they are working on a joint project. It is titled Friday Evening at the Camp and they also created some group portraits together. The vast majority of portraits of various groups, however, Roman Franc creates alone.

Those would not exist unless the author would not have gained the trust of those being photographed, who willingly cooperated during posing according to his instructions.  Sometimes, he has the concept of the images thought through to every last detail, other times, he spontaneously reacts to the surroundings, lighting, or the mood of the people in front of the camera. However, he always takes on the role of the director, who authoritatively yet amicably lets all those involved know, that they all play a crucial role in both artistically and historically important photographs. The subjects then have the feeling, that they are a part of something exceptional, of something that builds on the past and that will last for the future. He can persuade football players and their fans from the islands of Tanna, enjoyers of sauna and nudists near the river Svratka or dozens of seniors who used to work in an armory in Brno to cooperate. Its role in this plays not only the respect for a slow and heavy, but dignified large format film camera, so special in the age of phones and light compact cameras. Inventive image composition and technical precision both play a crucial role in his works.

Roman Franc often returns to taking photos of certain groups such as firefighters, hunters, or the citizens of the village of Naloučany. The citizens, later on, took him as one of their own and out of gratitude for the fact, that their portraits made their way into the library of the American Congress, named him a member of the firefighters and organized a ball in their village in his honor. Hence, not only great photographs are being created, but often even friendships.

Vladimír Birgus, curator of the exhibition