Interview with fashion photographer Frank Rocco

Frank Rocco is the owner of Frank Rocco Photography based in New York City. He specialises in fashion, beauty, dance and portrait photography.

Frank Rocco

Tell us about your background.

My name is Frank Rocco, owner of Frank Rocco Photography based in New York City.  I shoot fashion, beauty, dance and portrait photography.

In college, I was a communications major and a studio art minor. Queens College only had two photo courses (Photo 1 and Photo 2) which were both black and white darkroom courses. Even though I took both courses, I still only thought of photography as a hobby.

After graduating with a BA in Communications, I took the first job that I was offered so that I could earn a living. I was the printing buyer for the City of New York’s Department of Finance. I really enjoyed my first year as the people were great. But soon it changed with budget cuts and people leaving but not being replaced.  This resulted in an unhealthy work environment.

After the second year, I told my manager and director that I wanted to leave in six months time. My plan was to travel around Europe until my cash ran out. Thereafter, I would return to New York to find a new job. The director discouraged me from quitting. She said that she would give me a month off to travel around Europe, but that I would still have a job to return to. I would still be able to seek new employment at the same time. I agreed to his plan. After a month in Europe, I returned to a job that I hated.

For the next six months, I went to a lot of interviews. The first job that wasn’t sales related was a terrible photography job. Two months later, I got a less awful photography opportunity. Once back into photography, I wanted a darkroom near my home, so I started taking courses at Queensborough Community College. I took courses like colour photography, fashion photography and alternate processes. I soon ran out of courses, so I started taking courses at the Fashion Institute of Photography.

During my last semester, my Professional Procedures teacher advised me to join a trade organization e.g. ASMP (The American Society of Media Photographers) which I promptly did. Since the New York chapter was having some trouble, it was easy to become involved. I was a member of the steering committee, then became a membership chair. Thereafter I served as president of ASMP NY for five years. In June 2018, I started my second three-year term on the national board of ASMP.

While in school and after school, I assisted many photographers and learned a lot from many different types of photographers.

How did you get involved with NY Fashion Week?

Although I have shot for different designers and PR firms, most of my Fashion Week shooting has been done for one magazine. I have known the founders of the magazine since the beginning. During fashion week, I enjoy shooting backstage most of all, as this can be more creative. The lighting has not been done for photography, and thus I’m getting different shots compared to those of the runway photographers.

How did you choose your specialities?

I love shooting beauty and fashion because I get to be a bit more creative than I would with portraits or headshots, but I still get to work with people.  Working with a great model is such a pleasure, as you can ask a model to do almost anything. One can experiment with light and angles, and as long as it is working, they are happy to be part of the project.

I have shot the concert of a very famous singer who requires that all photographers stay to one side of the stage because she only likes that side of her face. (The other side looks just as good.) You don’t get any of that with models. On a shoot for one magazine, the creative director asked the model if we could shave her eyebrows off so she could look like an alien. She said no, but she did consider it.

What has been some career highlights?

I don’t know if I can specify highlights, but one of the joys is seeing my images on sites and even more so, in print. Once in a while, I don’t know something is going to be printed and then I see it (sometimes life-size) and that always feels good.

What is your advice for aspiring photographers?

My first advice is to get out there, get involved and make as many connections as you can. My next piece of advice is to shoot as much as possible and remember to get model releases.

What is your go-to gear?

I have multiple kits, depending on the size of the shoot. My main kit is Dynalite (I have 5 packs and 10 heads) and I’m currently shooting with an Olympus OM-D E-M1 MKII with a 12-100mm. This lens is perfect for fashion week. I also use the 7-14mm, 25mm and 50mm. I have a few tripods which I use for different shoots. For location shooting, I love using my carbon-fibre tripod which is no longer in production.

Have you worked with any talented individuals?

I am fortunate to shoot some musicians as well as many talented people and thereafter watch their shows. Recently, I shot Helen Rose as well as Lizzie & The Makers and thereafter watched two fantastic shows. I got to meet and shoot the B-52s at an event and got to see them perform for the first time.

Some of the dancers I shoot have amazing talent and technique. Sometimes, I only really get to appreciate that when editing the images (since I’m more concerned with everything else while shooting).

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

What do you enjoy doing in your spare time?

I don’t have much spare time as I also teach four courses at three different schools (FIT, Manhattan College and Harlem School of the Arts). If I get a chance, I enjoy snowboarding. I love to play my guitar while waiting for photos to download off my cards.

Favourite locations in NYC?

I love the village (Greenwich Village) and SoHo. You can turn your camera in any direction and there’s an entirely new scene. I also love going to the outskirts (east or west) to find some industrial areas.


If you would like to see more of Frank’s work, follow him via his Instagram, Facebook, website or Twitter sites.

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About the author

Jennifer Venter

I am a passionate trained photographer currently living in China. I love travelling & meeting new people so my photos tend to fall into those categories. I love coffee, fashion & Christmas. The only thing that makes me run away in horror are scorpions. Contact me via email ([email protected]) or Instagram (@fleetingtimephotography).

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