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HomeContents > People > Photographers > Frank R. Fraprie

Dates:  1874, 14 July - 1951, 20 July
Born:  US, MA, Fall River
Died:  US, MA, Brighton

Preparing biographies

Approved biography for Frank R. Fraprie
(Courtesy of Christian Peterson)

Fraprie was the most influential author/publisher of American pictorial photography during the period following the Photo-Secession. From the 1910s to the 1940s, he wrote books and countless articles on all aspects of pictorialism. He edited photographic monthlies and annuals for nearly the entire first half of the twentieth century. In addition, he created his own highly successful pictorial photographs and exhibited them extensively. Frank Roy Fraprie was born in Fall River, Massachusetts, on July 14, 1874. After graduating from Harvard University in 1898, he taught chemistry at the University of Illinois.
Fraprie’s editorial career began in 1901, when he relocated to Boston to join the staff of Photo Era. He soon became an associate editor of the magazine, a position he held until 1905, when he moved to American Amateur Photographer, in which he bought partial interest. Two years later, this monthly merged with a Chicago periodical to become American Photography. Based in Boston, American Photography quickly became the leading and, ultimately, the longest-running magazine addressing mainstream pictorialism. By the time it ceased publication in 1953, it had incorporated sixteen other American photographic magazines, including Camera Notes, Camera Craft, and the originalPopular Photography.
Fraprie obtained controlling interest in American Photography in 1927, the year he also became editor of the American Annual of Photography. In this dual position of power, he both guided and observed American pictorialism for nearly twenty-five years. He wrote hundreds of editorials, reviews, commentaries, and articles for the two publications. He was tremendously influential in standardizing salon practices throughout the world, by suggesting operational guidelines and by tabulating the exhibition records of photographers from six continents. The extensive listing "Who’s Who in Pictorial Photography" earned the American Annual of Photography the status of being the "pictorialists’ bluebook."
Fraprie wrote a handful of European travel books in the first decade of the twentieth century. His photography titles began appearing in the 1910s and continued for thirty years. Primarily technical in nature, his monographs covered lenses, printing, enlarging, lantern slides, portraiture, optics, development, lighting, retouching, exposure, and other subjects. Perhaps his most successful volume was Photographic Amusements, coauthored with Florence C. O’Connor and in its eleventh edition by 1937. All of Fraprie’s photography books appeared under the imprint of the American Photographic Publishing Company, the field’s leading publisher.
Fraprie himself began making photographs when he received a camera for his twelfth birthday. By about 1902, when he started working at Photo Era, he was creating and exhibiting artistic pictures. He corresponded with Alfred Stieglitz and knew the work of the Photo-Secession through Camera Work, to which he subscribed. Fraprie’s early work probably was similar to Secessionist pictures, but by 1910 he and Stieglitz disagreed on aesthetic issues. For the next fifteen years, he exhibited modestly, primarily at camera clubs in Boston and New York.
In the mid-1920s, however, Fraprie’s photographic output began to increase. In the 1932-33 and 1933-34 seasons he found himself listed at the top of his own ranking of exhibitors in the American Annual of Photography. At his peak, he was regularly showing more than 300 prints a year in nearly seventy-five international salons.
Fraprie’s most successful salon photograph was Warmth of the Winter Sun. In 1948, just over ten years after he created it, he claimed that 218 juries had accepted it. Made in an enclosed Italian brick courtyard, where a peasant woman sits in a shaft of light, the image evokes Fraprie’s old-world values and traditional pictorial aesthetics.
Not surprisingly, Fraprie was involved with and honored by the leading photographic organization of his time. In the 1920s, he headed the Photographic Guild of Boston’s Society of Arts and Crafts, and he was a regional vice-president for the Pictorial Photographers of America. He was a charter member of the Photographic Society of America, which later awarded him a coveted honorary fellowship (Hon. FPSA). He was similarly honored by England’s Royal Photographic Society. Upon his retirement, thePSA Journal called him, unequivocally, "Mr. Photography."
At the end of 1949, Fraprie stepped down as editor of both American Photography and the American Annual of Photography. The monthly devoted a special issue to him, which included numerous tributes and a selection of his pictures. By the middle of the next year, he was bedridden and going blind. He died on June 20, 1951, in Brighton, Massachusetts. 
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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