Prince Franco started using iPhones to take pictures of fellow New Yorkers on the subway five years ago, but he didn’t feel like he had the right medium to show the world his work. He felt the Internet wasn’t a real enough environment to convey the effect he was looking for. His images, which show people in a transient state–biding their time on the train–portray a sense of isolation, but at the same time skew that feeling of solitude because each image is a reflection.
When he started the project five years ago, Franco found himself interested not only in the unique spirit of public transpiration, but also by what he calls the “transient nature of my generation.” Below, Franco talks about his career in the fashion industry and the reasons why he started taping his reflection pictures to subway windows. He also discusses plans for a pop-up gallery show bound for the Bowery this September.
Why did you start this iReflectNY project and what’s the motivation behind it?
The journey started after meeting another photographer who encouraged me to just go out and see the world the way I felt was beautiful. And I just went out and did it my way. This started way back in 2010 and has not stopped since that first day. The first photo I captured in the project had the phrase “people love,” in it. The motivation behind it is my chase to best describe Americanism through my own eyes. Being a born and raised New Yorker, I see this being my project until the day I die.
Is there something about the nature of public transportation you wanted to comment on? Why are most shots taken on the train?
It was both the transient nature of my generation and public transportation that I wanted to comment on in a photo. Most shots are on the train because I like to capture these emotions and people in a impressionist form, sort of like Monet. This is my perception of life through my daily backyard travels. This moment for me is precious and never to return. No matter how hard I try it can’t or won’t feel the same .
Why did you start hanging your pictures up on the train? Was there a goal or message there?
The reason why I started to hang my photos on the train is for the people who take the train, and because I have no other place to show New York what I see. I grew up in Queens and I remember being a kid and seeing graffiti and scratchys while riding the train with my mom, but then in the 90s, everything changed. All the surfaces are like indestructible now, it’s crazy man. It just felt natural for me to put my photos back on the train, so the goal for me was to print 250 pictures and hit every line. I saved up while continuing to shoot as much as possible. I’ve been waiting about five years to show what I feel is something special and new for the art world and photography in New York .
Most of your work is portraiture or editorial work. Is iReflectNY the logical progression of wanting to do different kind of work?
Being a person who has pursued a creative life and a career in fashion and art, my work has lead me to different job roles and opportunities. My work as a fashion editor and working in the industry for most of my adult career has always worked congruently with this particular photography series. I always liked doing both commercial fashion work and this more artistic photography because it helps keep the balance for me. Riding the trains around the city and waiting for that right moment to photograph something is therapy for me outside of the fashion world.
I understand you shot most of these on an iPhone. Why did you decide to do that?
I do only shoot these on iPhone and have tried with other cameras to get the same image, but it doesn’t translate to what I want. I started to shoot these in 2010 when the iPhone 4 was out and it was all I could afford. I wanted to push that camera to the limit and explore everything with it. I have images from every iPhone that came out after the iPhone 4. I saw the iPhone 6 advertisements and thought “wow” its come a long way. I always said that it was going to get the same respect as other tools to create art and meaning. I still like the noise and dust you get in my images. Even as the iPhone camera gets better, New York trains will always shine with a specs of grime on them. I can’t copy other people this way.
What are your main motivations and ambitions as an artist?
My ambition as an artist is to document New York low lines in the most beautiful way. I think that is why it leads me to explore many of the same train lines over and over. Also, the desire to achieve something great in my life through 10,000 hours of riding the train and taking reflection photos is a motivating factor. The motivation behind me being an artist is to understand what love is in life, and finding what I love and going for it. I love learning what I’m good at and not good at, and I push myself to be better every day.
What kind of other creative projects do you have lined up in the near future?
I’m still doing fashion. I will never stop art directing campaigns. Styling and designing are instrumental in how I see things, but I borrowed some money from an investor and I’m working on producing my own show with these reflection photos that will actually be printed for the first time ever. So I’m spending the summer prepping and finding all the pieces and people to bring the exhibition to life. I’m a part of this collective called MINY (@MINYcollective) which started a few years back with some friends and now I’m taking the idea and turning it into a place with tangible goods. The exhibition will be apart of the MINY pop-up gallery in September on the Bowery.