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PHOTOGRAPHER | Frankie Isabel

Making Art from Life: Frankie Isabel Photography is on a quest to capture the ephemeral beauty of the human experience. With a background in fine art and a lifelong interest in anthropology, this Chicago-based artist sees weddings as the perfect landscape for exploring the connections that make life meaningful. Since starting her business in 2019, Francisca Isabel Figueroa has traveled across the world, connecting with couples and families to chronicle their most important milestones. Frankie Isabel Photography's work incorporates a blend of photojournalistic, documentary, and fine art editorial styles, and she uses traditional analogue film techniques alongside state of the art digital technology to create images that will become timeless keepsakes. 

What would you like couples to know about you?

I am surprised sometimes by how much I genuinely love my work. Getting to build relationships with my couples and be a part of their big life events is so humbling. It's truly an honor that I’ve been able to make this work my profession.

Where are you based?

I am based in Chicago, IL but will work with select clients anywhere in the world. A few of my favorite recent destinations have been Mexico during winter and Italy in spring. Being able to play with the different colors, architecture, and general cultural landscapes of different countries adds so much to the fun I have as a documentary-style photographer. I speak both Spanish and Italian, which makes travel in these destinations easy. But I also enjoy the excitement and challenge of exploring places I am less familiar with.

How would you describe your style?

Editorial meets documentary photography, meets cinematic— or even painterly. 

For portraits, I tend towards an editorial style. I love giving my couples the experience of looking at their photo album for the first time and feeling like they're looking at a spread from a fashion magazine.  I have a host of techniques to help couples who are feeling camera-shy, and I always facilitate more laid-back moments to ensure we capture the warmth, tenderness, and intimacy of their connection.

However, most of my favorite shots are the candid ones.  I am always tuned-in to capture the precious in-between moments that really tell the story of the day - the hugs, the laughter, the dancing, the tears. From a documentarian perspective, I am here to observe and capture my couple’s story, and that requires paying attention to the beauty of the unplanned moments.

And I am obsessed with the play of light. My background in fine art trained me well in the visual storytelling power of Chiaroscuro, or the use of strong contrasts between light and dark. It is both a core technique of photographic narrative and a nod to the coded visual language of Renaissance painters to subtly depict the presence of the divine. I find so much of the sacred in my subject matter, and I weave this approach throughout all of the work I do.

What is your most memorable career moment?

Early in my career I got the chance to shoot a wedding in Italy on a vintage Hasselblad 500CM. That wedding pushed me way out of my comfort zone and completely changed the way I was approaching my work from a technical perspective, and I think it will always be one of my favorite experiences.

What inspires you?

I find inspiration everywhere. Whether it's in films, music, fashion editorials, or just something I see on the subway, the way light hits the water or shines through a glass, how a particular book makes me feel while reading it I love to look past the obvious and find inspiration in the small things.

Discussing inspiration is a big part of my process with couples. I always want to know what their inspirations are, and I love when we are feeling excited by the same things. I’m all about sharing mood boards and customizing our timeline and experience to suit our shared vision.

What motivates you to do what you do?

I am genuinely fascinated by human connection, rites of passage, and the mystery of love. There is something spiritual in there for me, and I was drawn to the wedding industry for its richness and depth in these core aspects of the human experience. I feel truly blessed to bear witness to the intimate and sacred moments my clients welcome me into, and I feel a deep sense of purpose and responsibility in shooting weddings that inspires me to continuously strive towards creating my best work.

How would you describe your working style?

My working style is very grounded and go-with-the-flow. I am not a main character in my clients’ story, and my primary aim is to center the comfort, ease, and celebration of my couples and their loved ones. 

I want to always capture the purest essence of the occasion. I love when clients are willing to schedule portrait sessions as a part of their timeline, but I don’t believe in pulling my couples away from their celebration. I prefer to be more organic and candid in my approach, capturing special moments of my couples and their guests throughout the course of the celebration. I am always paying attention to the light as the day goes by, and I like to take my couples aside for a few minutes at a time as I find interesting lighting or a beautiful backdrop. This provides variety and makes sure that their portraits really tell the story of the day. It also allows my clients to really focus on enjoying themselves and their family and friends who are there to honor them. 

As an integral part of a wedding ceremony and celebration, guests are also a big focus of my photography. I like to engage with them, both to get to know them better and to make sure they feel comfortable with me. This allows me to document every person at a wedding without it feeling invasive. 

And, despite my relaxed demeanor, I am highly tuned-in throughout the day, honing in on the special moments that tell the story of the occasion and depict the emotions, connections, and love of everyone present.

Do you shoot digitally, on film or both?

Film is a really big part of my work. Analogue photography has shaped my style, and the way I shoot. Although I use both film and digital for every wedding I shoot, my digital work is highly influenced by the colors and textures of the film I shoot.

Do you have custom packages according to individual needs?

All of my packages are bespoke. I’ve found that there is never a one size fits all, and I like to chat with clients or planners about the event before sending over a custom package.

Who is your dream client?

I look for two big things when taking on a new client. I love to work with couples who have a strong vision and are also willing to trust me in my process. When those things come together, the results are pure magic.

What is your advice to couples getting married?

I encourage couples to think about how they want to feel on their wedding day and to use that as their true north. Working with a really talented wedding planner can relieve some of the pressure of logistics and allow them to focus more on enjoying their special occasion.


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