By VICTOR SLEDGE, October 2021
Castro Frank is an LA-based visual artist whose candid yet narrative approach to photography has created stunning, approachable work that captures both the essence of its subjects and the spirit of the environments in which they are captured.
Castro explores the everyday in a not-so-everyday way, letting the feelings of his subjects, their environments, and the viewer carry a lot of the artistic perception into the photo. To fully experience his work, you need only to allow yourself to fully experience whatever feelings it brings to you, and that is also a theme he’s continuing as he expands his artistic creations.
Castro is now adding experimental, abstract photography to his body of work.
As an artist, there was a time where Castro was told that he had to stay in one lane to be taken seriously in any given art form. However, he’s since worked to break himself out of that mindset to allow his work to reflect his genuine, fluctuating artistic urges. With that in mind, and with the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic last year, he began to expand his work into abstract photography.
“Because of the COVID lockdowns in 2020,” he explains, “I was like a pressure cooker sweating at the seams to create art based on what I was feeling and living through.”
He recalled the beginning of his career, where he would develop his own film and see the light leaks at the end of each roll that were considered unusable and uncontrollable.
Castro says, “Living through the emotional and uncertain days of 2020, I felt much like that uncontrollable film frame.”
He began to mimic that personal feeling through his abstract photography, embracing and operationalizing the uncontrollable aspects of light.
“I had this idea that the light leaks would create vibrant and beautiful emotional color palettes on the film but had no way of being sure until I could develop it,” he says.
Castro’s abstractions are pure, raw emotion, free of inhibitions. The work fluctuates between different colors, intensities of light and levels of darkness, but they all come out with the same tension of visceral emotion within them.
And while Castro may experience a personal emotion and set out to create a photo that captures it for himself, the beauty of his abstract work is that it leaves so much to the viewer. His work is about him just as much as it is about us.
“That's the beauty of art,” he says. “It can break someone and it can save someone. Everyone's interpretation is their own and honest.”
While his earlier photography had a few more elements of control, where he could strategize how he’d like to capture the model and how he’d like their surroundings to look, his abstract photography demands a release of some of that control.
“In my portraiture, there’s a clear subject, a time of day, a place and a soft storyline,” he says. “In the abstract images, the color is the subject, the emotion and the entire connection with the viewer.”
That relinquishing of control gives way to an infinitely loaded collection of work. Each photo captures a totality of experience, whatever that experience may be. The photos in Ethereal, his latest series, live as many lives as they come into contact with.
In a way, Ethereal serves as a grounding, post hoc connection to the outside world during one of the most isolated times in recent history. Castro’s work not only honors his own inner landscape, but also shows his audience that whatever emotions they swam through during that time, whatever it was that lit their darkest days of isolation, they were not alone. These photos seem to move with the same fluidity and oneness of an ocean.
Ethereal is a universal ode to expression during a time where there was no one to express to in person. Now, though, several different viewers can see the use of color, light and darkness in one photo, and while they can all have completely different experiences interpreting those elements, they can also have the solidarity of knowing that, at the very least, these photos are recalling these experiential connections amongst them all.
It’s a reminder of our humanity that is independent of how or if people perceive it. The photos remind us that, at our core, when we’re left with nothing but our own personhood like we were during quarantine, emotion is one of the things that will always connect us.
“Ethereal was a creative release for me during one of the darkest periods in my adult life,” Castro explains. “It was a series created in complete silence, darkness, with no subject and with zero expectations.”
Ultimately, the series is not only a sign of the times that immortalizes and forever honors the depth of emotion that the world collectively unearthed as we dug into our solitude, it now also serves as a constant connection to those emotions as well as the emotions that his viewers experience for years to come.
While one photo may capture the loneliness or hopelessness that Castro was experiencing at that time, for another viewer five years from now, it could capture the grief of losing a loved one or the regret of a failed relationship or the elation of a successful one. There is no singular feeling or time that the photos in Ethereal are bound to, and that is one of the spoils of speaking to the ever-present spirit of human emotion in art.
As Castro moves forward, the breadth of his artistry is only just beginning. Already an accomplished portrait photographer and spearheading his path into abstract photography, he mentions an interest in things like painting, which he is currently working on but already does but has yet to release.
And with his current portfolio, the work is sure to be a knockout with his genuine, natural approach to art. He doesn’t have to be put in a box like he was once advised at the start of his career because when you tap into the quintessential elements of humanity the way he does with emotion, the medium becomes but a vessel while the message and the viewer’s organic reaction becomes the main element of the art.
He says, “My primary goal is to break away from that idea and be free to create what I authentically feel. Whatever medium I create next will still be honest and pure.”
To learn more about Castro Frank, please visit his website here. WM
Victor Sledge is an Atlanta-based writer with experience in journalism, academic, creative, and business writing. He has a B.A. in English with a concentration in British/American Cultures and a minor in Journalism from Georgia State University. Victor was an Arts & Living reporter for Georgia State’s newspaper, The Signal, which is the largest university newspaper in Georgia. He spent a year abroad studying English at Northumbria University in Newcastle Upon Tyne, UK, where he served as an editor for their creative magazine before returning to the U.S. as the Communications Ambassador for Georgia State’s African American Male Initiative. He is now a master’s student in Georgia State’s Africana Studies Program, and his research interest is Black representation in media, particularly for Black Americans and Britons. His undergraduate thesis, Black on Black Representation: How to Represent Black Characters in Media, explores the same topic.