Photos By: Rob Frank
Jeremiah Hassel, Features Editor
Picture a romantic, peaceful forest, the morning sunlight piercing the leafy canopy above and gently setting the foliage alight with a magical glow. Leaves of red and orange and yellow litter the ground, brightly accenting the crisp green undergrowth and the thick brown of the tree trunks nearby. A wide, glimmering stream cascades over a perfectly formed rocky platform, atop which sits a circular fallen log in the shape of a bench. A newly engaged couple sits, admiring the beauty and each other as they gaze deeply into each other’s eyes.
SNAP! In an instant, the moment is preserved forever, a perfect rendition of its beauty and love entered into the eternal timeline of history through a single, high-definition photograph. You, the photographer, capture moments like these for a living, traveling to the most remote and beautiful places in the area and meeting new people every single day. It seems like a dream come true, right?
Now imagine entering the collegiate arena with this singular dream, a young and naïve teenager with a passion for the photography industry. But how do you make your aspirations a reality?
For Erie photographer Robert Frank, the answer was simple: a Penn State Behrend degree, which Frank earned in 2006.
Frank began his time at Behrend as a freshman in 2002. By his sophomore year, Frank was a member of the Lion Entertainment Board (LEB) and editing various pages of the Behrend Beacon.
Before long, Frank had become the executive director of LEB and the managing editor of the Beacon by his senior year.
“Campus activities… gave me the opportunity to work with people in a business-like setting,” said Frank. “[They] opened my eyes… [Activities] expose you to different cultures, different worlds, different points of views… it’s a different life perspective. I think you become way more well-rounded.”
Frank graduated from Behrend in 2006, earning a bachelor’s degree in communication and media studies (COMBA).
Six months after graduating, Frank was offered a job at Erie News Now – then WSEE/WICU – as a news photographer and videographer tasked with shooting, editing, and cutting videos for broadcast on the daily evening news. Each day offered new experiences for Frank: some involved intense and thrilling races to cover breaking news while others were of a much more sedentary nature with Frank and reporters listening to police and emergency scanners in search of stories.
After eight months on the job, Frank was offered a position in the company’s promotions department, a position that provided him with a secure routine and consistent daily schedule. While there, Frank acquired a number of tasks and responsibilities, even working in part with the commercials aired by the network.
In 2012, Frank was offered a full-time position working for a newspaper, a job he maintained for two years before his daughter was born, at which point Frank reduced himself to the role of part-time contractor for the paper.
During his journey, Frank’s original dreams of beginning his own company were not forgotten. When Frank began his career at Erie New Now, he also took the initiative to begin his own freelance photography business, which he named R. Frank Photography.
When Frank’s daughter was born and he reduced his responsibilities at the newspaper to part-time, Frank also began to grow his business, eventually moving to full-time freelancing with R. Frank Photography about three years ago.
Since then, Frank was offered a part-time position teaching photography courses at Behrend, a position he accepted in the spring of 2016.
Currently, Frank continues to operate and manage R. Frank Photography and teach various sections of PHOTO 100 at Behrend. His business offers him opportunities to capture everything from engagement celebrations to senior photos to the astounding beauty of the natural world.
Frank attributes the majority of his professional advancements as well as the successful realization of his dreams to his involvement while attending Behrend. “You will never have the opportunity again to immerse yourself in so many different aspects of the world that you will at a university,” said Frank. “Diversifying your stream, I think, is important, especially in our world, because more and more people are expecting photographers to blend into the other arts.”
At present, Frank lives in Erie with his wife and two children and revels in the fact that his career path and opportunities have awarded him the simple pleasure of picking his daughter up from preschool twice a week.
“It is very easy to look in the past, but looking backwards doesn’t change your future,” concludes Frank. “Every experience you’ve had your whole life, every experience you’re ever going to have is going to shape who you are.”