SEASIDE - Anymore you can't throw a rock but you'll hit a person with a camera.

They're everywhere and they have better lenses than some professional photographers.

But "there's a big difference between what people think photography is and what it really is," says Don Frank, a commercial photographer, Seaside resident, dog owner.

Firstly - obviously - photography is a way of seeing and you have to see with your eyes, not just with the camera.

"I see people with cameras, just taking pictures, and they're not even enjoying where they are," Frank says. "They're missing it."

Some days Frank walks around, camera in hand, seeing pictures everywhere - it doesn't mean he'll take aim and shoot. Later he might regret this, but probably not. There's something to be said for living too.

As a commercial photographer, he shoots a lot of buildings, businesses, weddings and family portraits. So, secondly, photography is about people.

"Photography is a people business," he adds. "I might take a photo of a hotel, but I need to work with people to make it happen."

A camera pointed at your face is both a chance to pose and a chance to hide. Frank doesn't want either scenario. Photography - if we would like to get existential (we do) - is about what makes a human being. This means failures and falls, dirt under our feet and the earth's elements messing up the whole wide world as we know it.

"Grotesque," Frank says. "That's it.

"I get the 'Oh I'm not photogenic' a lot," he adds. "Everyone's beautiful somewhere, somehow."

He has to call on all his people skills to get subjects to the point where they will abandon their fake smiles and formality, their run-and-hide instinct.

People are never perfect and life isn't neat. This is important.

"That's what I try to show in my photos," he says. "The lady who's trying to make the kids' hair all perfect when we're out in the wind...No. No one's going to be happy so let's play and see what happens. Let them get dirty."

He pulls out a photo he took of a man and woman. The woman is brushing the man's teeth.

"I mean, it's weird, but you can see how much they love each other," he says.

Frank doesn't separate life and photography. Instead, photography itself is a lifestyle - quite literally, a worldview, he says.

He's walking down the Seaside beach, throwing a toy to his Jack Russell Terrier, Kya, and talking about how the coast is a perfect backdrop both for photos and his life as it currently stands.

The wind whips the sea foam off the top of the water and sends it rushing down the beach. Somebody has drawn a smiley face on the gas bladder of an uprooted kelp strung out across the sand. The light is white and gray. The ocean stretches for miles.

"People ask me, 'How can you stand it out here?'" Frank says. "I say there're less things to do, but more time to do them. I'm not commuting. I'm not working for the man. That's good. That's quality of life."

- Katie Wilson


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