Having come up in New York City in the 80s, landing a job with photography legend Irving Penn not long after he graduated, Frohman has shot everyone from Run DMC, Woody Allen, Derek Jeter, James Brown to Nick Cave. On the eve of preparation for his December 18th book signing event in NYC's Morrison Hotel Gallery, he sat down with our creative director to talk about his career and his new book, Kurt Cobain: The Last Session.
How long did it take to get this book published, from the idea stage to the time it hit the bookstores?
I think the first discussion started in July 2013. We went to press in July 2014 and released it on November 2014.
It was a good four months of organizing and actually printing the book. I would say it's a solid year of work.
What is the most common question that you get asked about Kurt Cobain on your interviews and why do you think that is?
What was he like? People do not have much information about his true personality, apparently.
They only know him through his public persona. I also think it's because other members of Nirvana didn't talk much about Kurt in public.
Do you think the lack of information about him perpetuate a mythical proportion of his persona?
Absolutely. Some people attributed qualities of certain persona to him that probably did not exist or wasn't true.
How did the Colette show and book signing event in Paris come together?
I was introduced to Sara at Colette through a friend and she immediately expressed interest in collaborating.
I love Colette and it is the favorite venue for me to do book signing because for this book especially,
it's just what Colette personify: it's pop culture , it's rock and roll, and it's fashion.
Then later on, Sara came back with an idea of the photo exhibition to accompany the book signing
and I suggested we add other elements such as a collaboration-only t shirt and snow board design based on the book.
They love the idea, so that's how the whole project come together.
It happened pretty quickly and turned out to be a great experience.
Are there going to be more design and clothing line based on Kurt Cobain images that we can look forward to?
Yes, we are working on a deal right now with the Kurt Cobain estate. For many years I deny anyone access to these images because I was very protective of them.
Now that the images are out there and they are 100% attributed to me, I feel I have total control over the branding and perception of these images which made me feel comfortable in doing the merchandising deal.
Who are the photography masters that you look up to?
I have to say, my mentor Irving Penn and Richard Avedon who was a friend of Irving Penn whom I also knew on a personal level,
are my two favorites. I am also a huge fan of street photographer such as Garry Winogrand and William Eggleston.
I love many other different styles of photography but those are my favorites.
Which do you love more, in studio or location/environmental portraits and why?
I am known as a studio photographer. I feel I have more control and am comfortable in the studio environment.
Most of the classic and iconic images I have done came from my studio shoots. They just look everlasting to me.
We all heard about crazy restrictions when it come to shooting famous people, what is the shortest time frame you ever allowed to shoot a celebrity?
There were a couple of shoots that I was given only fifteen minutes to shoot my subject but I remember when I was shooting James Brown for the first time, I was only given five minutes with him and it was a terrible situation I was put into.
There was so much distraction from other photographers who were shooting behind me and shouting at him that I ended up shooting only half a roll of film on him.
Fortunately, we had another opportunity to shoot with James Brown that turned out great.
What is the most memorable and craziest assignment you've ever taken on?
I went to shoot at a tattoo convention in Philly where we set up a make shift studio in a hotel room.
I instructed my assistants to go find subjects and invited them over for a sitting. Words got out in the convention pretty fast and people started volunteering in droves. Soon there was a long line outside the door.
Almost everybody wanted to show me the tattoos on their private parts and It got chaotic really fast because
the girlfriends of some biker gang were taking their clothes off to show me their privates causing jealousy in their boyfriends
who threatened to pick a fight.
Another incident was shooting an album cover for the rapper Tim Dog in an abandoned lot of a very dangerous area
in South Bronx. All of a sudden my subjects started donning black stockings over their head and brandishing baseball bats as accessories for the shoot .
As if on cue, some gang showed up out of nowhere who have no clue as to what we were doing there.
At that moment, it looked like some gang war was about to start and I truly thought we were in harms way. That was a very scary moment.
Fortunately it was sorted out peacefully and we got out of that situation unharmed.
The style and meaning of portrait photography have change dramatically in this era of selfie and instagram postings, do you think it's a refreshing creative twist or the killing of the art of portrait photography and why?
I think it is the killing of the art of photography. The separation between photographers who study the craft and those who just happened to have a camera and instagram account is narrowing to the point you don't know the difference anymore.
Everyone can call themselves a photographer if they own a camera and an instagram account where they tried to make it a business plan for profit. I don't mind it on a personal level where I encourage others to take photograph.
However, I do feel that there is a real skill and talent to photography. Unfortunately, the public can't tell the difference and doesn't really care and that's where the problem lies.
I think in 20 years, people won't remark on what a great photograph is when they see one. That is where it seems to be heading.
Now everyone just love things and you wonder what they really love about them. Is it just because the images are posted on social media and blogs?
Nowadays you also get bombarded by too much imagery in your surrounding.
If I started out as a student of photography right now, I wonder if I would turn it into a career at this point.
I don't think it's something I would look forward to if I'm just starting out.
Who is your photography subject bucket list?
The Dalai Lama.
Paul McCartney because of the Beatle and I want to meet and have a conversation with him.
Bill Clinton for the same reason.
Robert De Niro.
Bob Dylan because I am a big fan.
Photography is a great media that allow me to meet many great people whom I wouldn't have a chance to meet otherwise.
What are you currently working on?
We are still pushing the book out. I'm having numerous book signing events these coming months.
I am currently shooting a book on flowers and another one on guns simultaneously.
At the same time, I continue to take on commercial and editorial work. It's a very busy time for me.
By Man Sumarni