Born in 1942 in Versalles Died in 2006 in Cali
La Violencia, the civil war that ravaged Colombia from 1948 to 1953, forces Fernell Franco and his family to flee their village of Versalles and move to Cali.
Young Fernell Franco discovers the cinema and becomes an avid movie fan; he goes to see several films a day in different movie theaters throughout the city. Mexican cinema, film noir and Italian neorealism would later have a important influence on his photography.
Fernell Franco begins working for the photography studio Estudio Arte Italia comme coursier as a bicycle courier and then as a fotocinero (a photographer who takes and sells portraits of people in the streets).
He becomes a photojournalist for the newspapers El País and Occidente, covering both the violence of life in Colombia as well as the society pages. In the 1960s, he also begins working as a fashion photographer for an avant-garde advertising agency run by Hernán Nicholls. He meets many artists there, including the filmmakers Luis Ospina and Carlos Mayolo. At the same time, he becomes acquainted with the work of photographer Richard Avedon.
1970 Fernell Franco starts working on his series Galladas, photographing the youth gangs – or “galladas” in Colombian slang – in Cali, a city that was undergoing a rapid process of modernization.
Ciudad Solar, an alternative, multidisciplinary art space created by Hernando Guerrero and Miguel González, opens in Cali on July 6. The site includes a film club, a photography lab, an exhibition room, and gradually becomes a hub for artists like Fernell Franco, Oscar Muñoz, Ever Astudillo, Andres Caicedo, Luis Ospina and Carlos Mayolo to meet and exchange ideas.
Fernell Franco exhibits a series entitled Prostitutas at Ciudad Solar. It depicts young girls and women working in one of the last brothels still operating in Buenaventura. Taking an experimental approach, he uses methods like toning and solarization to accentuate the contrasts in his photographs: the dark shadows become a metaphor for forgetting and confinement. In the early 1970s, seeking to record for posterity many of the urban areas that were fast disappearing, Fernell Franco starts photographing old homes abandoned by their owners that had been turned into makeshift tenements for the poor and the displaced. This work would become the series Interiores, which would also mark Fernell Franco’s first collaboration with Oscar Muñoz.
While strolling through the outdoor markets of Colombia and Latin America, Fernell Franco takes pictures of the merchandise and objects that have been wrapped and bound by their street vendors. He groups these photographs into a series called Amarrados. Fernell Franco participates in a major exhibition held as part of the First Latin American Photography Colloquium in the Museo de Arte Moderno in Mexico City. This is a historical event that propels Latin American photographers into the limelight. A book published in conjunction with the exhibition, Hecho en Latinoamérica, features photographs from Fernell Franco’s series Interiores.
Fernell Franco’s photographs are exhibited at the Museo de Arte Moderno La Tertulia in Cali, along with works by Oscar Muñoz and Ever Astudillo. The exhibition brings out the very tangible similarities and affinities to be found in the ways the three artists explore the visual arts.
1980 In the 1980s, he begins his Demoliciones series, using photography as a way of documenting the destruction of the city’s historic buildings, which are replaced by new modern buildings that are financed in part by the drug cartels
The Venice Biennale holds a major exhibition dedicated to Colombian photography. Entitled Colombia en Blanco y Negro, it features 23 artists, including Carlos Caicedo, Hernán Diaz, Gertjan Bartelsman and Fernell Franco.
A selection of photographs from the Latin American Photography Colloquium exhibition in Mexico City is shown at the Centre National d’Art et de Culture Georges Pompidou in Paris, France.
Fernell Franco’s work is presented at the first Havana Biennial and receives an award.
Fernell Franco begins working on Retratos de Ciudad, a series featuring North American cities such as New York and Houston, as well as his hometown of Cali.
Fernell Franco’s works are exhibited at the Fotofest International in Houston for Image and Memory, Photography from Latin America.
María Iovino begins a series of interviews with Fernell Franco, a unique first-person account given by the artist and published in 2004 as part of the exhibition Franco Fernell: Otro Documento, which was held simultaneously in six places in Cali, including the Banco de la República.
The Americas Society in New York holds an exhibition devoted to the series Amarrados.
As part of the PhotoEspaña Festival, the exhibition Cámara Ardiente: Prostitutas de Fernell Franco presents forty prints from the Prostitutas series.
Many of Fernell Franco’s photographs are shown as part of the group exhibition Urbes Mutantes: Fotografía Latinoamericana held at the International Center of Photography in New York.
The Fondation Cartier pour l’art contemporain presents the first European retrospective of Fernell Franco’s work.
Photo © Guillermo Franco