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Michelle Frankfurter, the February artist-in-residence for the Eyes on Main Street photographic festival in Wilson, said the people who have allowed her to make their photograph have given her “a gift.”
“They are giving you something of themselves, and mostly it’s their trust,” Frankfurter said. “They are putting their trust in you.”
EDUCATION: Bachelor’s degree in English from Syracuse University
HOW DID YOU GET INTERESTED IN PHOTOGRAPHY?: Frankfurter started college as a pre-veterinary student, but decided that was not going to be the right path for her. “I thought in the meantime, while I am trying to figure out what I want to do, I’ll take this photography class as an elective. It was like an epiphany for me. It was just this incredible moment where I felt like I was given a tool by which to communicate and be able to interpret the world and then express how I viewed it in a way that I had never been able to do it before. It was a visual language that made sense to me. I kind of felt like I understood it fundamentally and naturally, so that’s how I kind of got into it and I never looked back. There is just something so perfect to me about the still image.”
WHAT HAVE YOU PHOTOGRAPHED IN WILSON?: “I have photographed a lot in the African-American community and also in the Latino community and then in different parts of Wilson. I am just trying to paint a portrait. This is a small American town, and I am trying to focus on the people in the community that make it vibrant, and that includes everybody, black, white, Latino. It is a very welcoming city. People are very friendly, warm and open. For the most part, that has been my experience. It is a very interesting place, very visual for me. I don’t know how necessarily different Wilson is from any other place in the fact that it is that it is still segregated. It still feels pretty segregated. There are certain nexus points where I feel like it’s a great equalizer, and you see everybody converging there, like Flo’s Kitchen, where everybody can agree on a good biscuit. And that was really wonderful to shoot. Not to mention you eat a biscuit the size of my face and then be full for the rest of the day. Parker’s is another thing people can agree on, good barbecue.”
WHAT DID YOU THINK ABOUT EYES ON MAIN STREET?: “I think is a wonderful idea and it definitely breathes life into the community... I feel like for the most part, people like photography. They like looking at it. They like what it brings to their community. Any opportunity that you have to engage with the community and the public is a good thing. It is bringing a little bit of the world to Wilson, and for the photographers, I think we are walking away with a lot being able to spend a month here.”
Frankfurter, 57, born in Jerusalem, now works out of Takoma Park, Maryland, just north of Washington.
She has photographed people all over the world and has been the recipient of some of the most prestigious photojournalism awards including two World Press Awards for her work in Haiti in 1995.
To see some of Frankfurter’s other photo projects, visit www.michellefrankfurterphotos.com. For a full rundown of 2019 Eyes on Main Street events in Wilson, visit www.eyesonmainstreetwilson.com.