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HomeContents > People > Photographers > Frank J. Heller

Dates:  1917 - 2008, 3 October
Born:  US, NJ, Newark
An American photographer who worked for the Phillips Petroleum Co., Bertlesville, OK. In Yellow Springs, Ohio it was Russel Stuart with whom Frank was billeted while stationed at Wright-Patterson AFB during part of WWII who got Frank interested in photography and Ham Radio.
As his son Scott "Skip" Heller has written (pers. email, 8 November 2013): "My dad used to say he was the first American to be inducted as a fellow in both the Photographic Society of America and the Royal Photographic Society (FPSA, FRPS)."

Preparing biographies

Approved biography for Frank J. Heller
(Courtesy of Christian Peterson)

Frank J. Heller, of Bartlesville, Oklahoma, exhibited for only about ten years, from the late 1940s to the late 1950s, but did so extensively. He liked architectural subjects and obtained fellowship status in Englandís Royal Photographic Society (FRPS).
Heller was born in Newark, New Jersey, and moved with his family in 1928, at age eleven, to Bartlesville. He received a degree in chemical engineering from the University of Oklahoma, Norman, and then worked for the Phillips oil company, 1940-1941. During World War II he served in the United States Air Force.
While living in Yellow Springs, Ohio, Heller met Axel Bahnsen and became interested in photography. He began exhibiting modestly in the 1946-47 season, but only two years later was ranked eleventh worldwide. In the 1951-52 season, the last one compiled by the American Annual of Photography, Heller had risen to number one, successfully sending 259 prints to ninety-three photographic salons. Among the places his work was shown were New York, Rochester, Richmond, Memphis, St. Louis, Houston, Montreal, and Hong Kong. By the 1950s, he was shooting color slides and sending them to salons that now embraced this new mode of expression for pictorialists. The Rochester International Salon of Pictorial Photography, for instance, accepted his slides in 1954, 1954, and 1957, reproducing them each year in its catalog.
Heller was partial to architectural pictures and wrote an article on the subject for the June 1951 issue of thePSA Journal. In it, he pointed out that buildings often presented high contrast situations, with areas of strong illumination and deep shadows. So, he recommended that readers learn the limits of their film, by conducting experiments with exposure and development times. His five illustrations included images of the Washington Monument and the New York Public Library. The latter, titled Light Triangle, shows a woman in a shaft of light at the libraryís main entrance and apparently was popular at the time, also being reproduced in Camera (September 1948) and the American Annual of Photography 1953.
Heller was well regarded enough to be featured in a two-page advertisement for the Eastman Kodak Company that ran in both Camera and American Photography in March 1952. The ad promoted Kodak printing paper and quoted Hellerís advice: "I strongly advocate that an individual standardize his photographic procedure by using one type of film and one type of paper until he thoroughly familiarizes himself with their inherent qualities, and then and only then explore the other paper surfaces that are available." Of course, the implication was that this film and paper should be Kodak products. 
Christian A. Peterson Pictorial Photography at the Minneapolis Institute of Arts (Christian A. Peterson: Privately printed, 2012) 
This biography is courtesy and copyright of Christian Peterson and is included here with permission. 
Date last updated: 1 June 2013. 
We welcome institutions and scholars willing to test the sharing of biographies for the benefit of the photo-history community. The biography above is a part of this trial.
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Frank J. Heller
Self portrait Frank J. Heller 
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