Catching up with Frank Bevans—the PCB Industry’s Premier Photographer
June 23, 2016 | Dan Beaulieu, D.B. Management Group
I can tell you from first-hand experience that working with Frank Bevans has always been a pure delight. Anyone who Frank has ever worked with will agree. Frank is also nothing short of a magician when it comes to making even the most basic (and even a little messy) PCB facility look like a multimillion-dollar high-tech center through his photographs and videos. Over the years, I have been proud to introduce Frank to many of my clients when they were interested in having their facility professionally photographed for new marketing materials, from brochures to websites, and he has always done amazing work.
In this day of smartphone cameras, when everyone thinks they can just aim and click and match the work of true masters, it is easy to forget the art, creativity, and ingenuity of a true professional like Frank Bevans.
I had the chance recently to check in with Frank to see what he has been up to and what his plans for the future are
Dan Beaulieu: Thanks for taking the time to talk with me today.
Frank Bevans: My pleasure, Dan, it’s been a while since we’ve talked.
Dan: Yes it has, so Frank, let’s begin with where you started out; how did you get involved with photography?
Frank: I’ve always been intrigued by cameras, by technology of every kind, really. I was five years old in 1965. Cameras were magic. My father had a PressView 4x5 and a Nikon. His cameras were always around at home and also at his typesetting shop. Some of my favorite memories are helping him set up his slide shows on Sunday evenings. There were five kids in the family but I would be the first one to help him set up the projector and the screen. Back then, TV was in black and white, but my Dad’s slides were in color. To see the images large and in color was really quite impressive!
I suppose that for me, photography was a natural thing to do. I remember when I was about five years old; it was Christmas time and I was at a friend’s house. I saw that someone had gotten a camera from Santa. It was a Kodak Instamatic. I don’t know what got into me, I mean I didn’t have anyone’s permission, but I went ahead and opened the box, assembled the camera, loaded the film and before I knew it, I had shot off half the provided roll before I suddenly realized, “Hey, this isn’t mine!” I put the camera back into the box before anyone could see. Those were the first images I had ever taken. I often wonder how they turned out.
Dan: I bet you heard about that. So when did you get your own camera and what was it?
Frank: I got a camera of my own when I was 10 years old. It was a Kodak Brownie 2-¼. I took nature pictures mostly—mountains, pictures of my Uncle’s ranch, family and friends. When I was 21, my father passed away. I took possession of his Nikon F. I knew that I wanted to be a photographer like him. For about three years, I shot my own nature work.
Dan: And what was your first job in photography?
Frank: Actually it was with that camera that I became a freelance photographer in 1983; that was the beginning of Frank Bevans Photography. I shot for a fish magazine and also for reptile, cat and nature magazines. I also worked for Primary Productions. We did event photography for corporations and also for community and private parties. I realized in 1984 that in order for me to take images like the photographers that I had always admired, like Ansel Adams and Edward Weston, I would need to get into large format, so I bought a 4 x 5 Wista Field View and a few used lenses.
Dan: Is that when you decided that this was going to be your career?
Frank: I had been working full time at my father’s typesetting shop, Typothetae, for nearly eight years, and then it closed in 1988. Two weeks later I went into the unemployment office. I guess I hadn’t gotten all the appropriate paperwork in so the representative was impatient with me and asked me how I was going to prove that I had been trying to look for work. Maybe it was my long hair? I didn’t appreciate his attitude so I told him that I’d prefer that he just give the money to someone that needed it more than me. He asked me, “Ok, so then what do you plan to do?” I answered without even thinking, “Photography!” He then informed me that the State of California was not going to pay me to start my own business. I had to tell him that he wasn’t listening to me. I told him that I was going to strike out on my own, and become a full-time photographer.
Dan: And so there you are. How did you get started working in the PCB industry?
Frank: I got involved in the PCB business in 1990 when I happened to meet Ron Meogrossi at a service bureau. He was the art director of CircuiTree Magazine. He let me know that they didn’t have a budget for covers. I told him that I’d do the very first cover for free. They were happy to let me. At the time, their office was situated in a building at the end of the runway of the San Jose Airport. CircuiTreeenjoyed the results of my (pro-bono) first cover, so they agreed to pay me for the second cover and asked me if, along with shooting the covers, I could shoot an industrial manufacturing shop. The first shop that I shot was Herco in Southern California. It was a giant PCB manufacturing shop, the first of hundreds of manufacturing shops that I would go on to photograph in this industry. Another part of my job with CircuiTree was to provide photography for the advertisers of the magazine, mostly OEMs. I would shoot products and concept photos. All were high-impact images to assist in their marketing.
My years working in the PCB industry gave me access to a lot of events in and around the industry, such as the NEPCON and the IPC trade shows, either working directly for the IPC and/or for CircuiTree Magazine, photographing everything from the award dinners, special events, symposiums, along with many other industry sponsored events—from the Marlon fishing trip in Cabo San Lucas to the golf tournaments nationwide.
Dan: Those covers were amazing. I have a theory that they helped make CircuiTree the “go to” magazine at that time.
Frank: Well, thanks, Dan, that’s nice of you to say. You know I recently learned (from a retired employee of Apple Computers) that Steve Wozniak and John Scully were big fans of CircuiTree Magazine and that they also loved the covers. I was gratified to hear that. I put a lot of work into those covers, always trying to come up with a theme and an image that would not only be pertinent to the magazine’s editorial but interesting as well. In order to achieve the shot I was going for, I had composited all of the special effects on one sheet of film through the use of masking techniques. At the time, before Photoshop, I was one of only a handful of photographers who were accomplishing this. I was told that my masking techniques were intriguing to the two gentlemen.
Dan: Thinking back to those covers, are there any that stand out as your favorites?
Frank: It’s hard for me to narrow it down. They were all really fun to do. Let me tell you about a few of them: (See Images below this article)
Painted lady—“The new face of embedded circuit technologies” —Make-up artist Rose Hill. I think that one of the best things about this cover was getting to work with make-up artist, Rose Hill again. I was fortunate to be able to call on her for several covers. She is one of the most talented make-up artists on the west coast, a really fun person to be around!
Fruits—“Global Alliances: A New way to Grow” —This image was taken outdoors on a sunny day in my front yard. This is actually a lemon tree.
Ship over the edge—“Exploring the Edge of Etch Technology” —That is a real waterfall that I created in my studio. You know, so many of the props that we used were things that we already had or things that we could find at garage sales. My mom, Lois Bevans, an avid garage sale shopper, provided many unusual props that graced the CircuiTree covers over the years.
Broken light bulb— “A breakthrough idea: Embedded Mezzanine Capacitance”—This is probably a classic example of our Sci-Fi inspired covers. This image in particular was interesting to create. Normally I would do the photo compositing in one camera; this image was created using two cameras, moving the 4x5 film from one camera (set) to another camera on a different set.
Indiana Jones—“Raiders of the next Expo” —My brother, Mark appeared as Indiana Jones. Mark, an alumni CircuiTree model, is in nearly half a dozen covers. This is a good example of how location is so important. This was shot at an Egyptian museum in San Jose, California.
Tin man—“Getting to the Heart of Alternative Surface Finishes” — This was a fun cover. I built this Tin man out of cardboard and silver paint. This was our nod to The Wizard of Oz.
The timeless and universal concepts that we artistically portrayed on the covers of CircuiTree are also available as stock photography. So companies can purchase these (and many other) stock images from Frank Bevans Photography for their marketing needs, company posters/website and trade show booth artwork. I have a page on my website that one can go to and see if any of the themes work for their needs. The public is always welcome to call and asked about a particular theme I may have. And, I should point out, as an artist I am always eager to have the opportunity to create custom images.
Dan: I know that your work was not limited to the PCB industry; what is some of the other work you’ve been involved in over the years?
Frank: Some of the other commercial industries I’ve photographed include cars and trucks for Ford Motor Company; video games and gear for Sony Entertainment; computers and printers for Hewlett Packard; kitchen appliances for KitchenAid. I’ve also done editorial and ads for Forbes, Sunset Magazine, Guitar Player Magazine, and others.
Dan: Can you share with us some of the more memorable experiences you’ve had over the course of your career?
Frank: Well, this is an interesting story. I was sent to photograph a coal-burning power station out of Somerset on Lake Ontario in New York. I was working for a company called Electrical Power Research Institute. They sent me there to the power station to photograph the giant scrubbers that were on top of these coal-burning smokestacks. The scrubbers were scrubbing the sulfur dioxide out of the burning of coal. The scrubbers would trap the particulate matter; in fact these scrubbers would scrub 97% of the sulfur dioxide out of the emissions of burning coal. So this happened on a very chilly winter day and I was there chatting with my representative and we were walking outside from one building to another when a large tank of sulfur dioxide ruptured nearby. A plume of gas nearly knocked us down. We spent the next several hours inside a nearby building, coughing to get the gas out of our lungs and eyes. As soon as I had recovered enough, I went out to get the shots that I had come to get. When I called the client that afternoon, I told him what had happened and he was pleasantly surprised that I had completed the job for the day and was not calling a lawyer. The next day, at that same facility, I needed to get photographs of the grounds of the entire power station. I rode up on the outside service elevator to the top of one of the smokestacks with my client. He rode it back down to take care of some business on the ground and left me there to photograph the area from on top of the stack. It had to have been at least 500 feet up. It wasn’t long before I learned that the outside service elevator had frozen up and, basically, I was stuck on the top of the smokestack with the sun going down. They said the only way I would be able to get down now was to hook myself onto a harness that would lower me to the ground. Well, I was out there, dangling, blowing around in the icy wind and the only thing that kept me calm as I rode the 500 feet to the ground, was my unbending intent to get great photos.
Another time I was sent by Millennia Media, a manufacturer of high-end pre-amplifiers, to Nashville, TN. My job was to photograph Grammy Award winner Chuck Ainlay, holding one of Millennia’s pre-amps while waterskiing. At the time, Chuck was world renowned for his audio engineering, but he was also known to compete in waterskiing competitions. He agreed to star in the shoot for Millennia to demonstrate the portability of one of their new products. So I went out on the speedboat with Chuck and his crew. For this water skiing shoot, I strapped myself to the side of the boat and leaned out over the water to get the shots and it was a blast! Chuck is a very talented music producer and truly a wonderful human being.
Dan: You also did some work in the music industry for some company that made handmade amps or something?
Frank: I’ve photographed for a number of companies in the music industry. Mesa Boogie Engineering is an American company that makes handmade guitar/bass tube amplifiers for the who’s who in the rock, country and jazz worlds. For many years, I did high-end still photography of their products and high-end photography and videography of the artists who use their amplifiers. In addition to studio photography, I did many of the shoots (both of artists and products) on-location. I traveled with Tim McKee, artist relations, to photograph and videotape many artists using, and talking about using, Mesa gear. Being behind the scenes at major concert events is very entertaining.
Dan: So what’s it like working with famous people?
Frank: What’s most interesting to me about photographing famous people is that, plain and simple, they are people. They are famous for the things they’ve done, they have magazine articles written about them, they are on TV or even in movies, but really, these are real people who have chosen high-profile professions. They are just regular folks who just so happen to be in the media. I think that the majority of them never really set out to become an icon. The media makes them bigger than life. Becoming familiar with a person is the best way for me to get a genuine portrait of them. But most of all I enjoy getting to know who the real person is, spending time finding out where they’re coming from and I find that, no matter who they are on stage, they are some of the nicest people I’ve ever had a chance to meet and I enjoy their company.
Dan: Frank, what are you up to these days?
Frank: Well, as always, I am constantly improving my processes and strengthening my abilities in my craft. Staying current is an ongoing part of my everyday life. Finding cost-effective ways to bring more value to my clients is also a big part of that process.
Dan: And you still work in our industry as well right? How do people hire you?
Frank: Well, it is actually simple to do. I am very accessible thanks to all the modern gadgets that we have nowadays. They are always welcome to call me. They can also email me, or text me, or message me. I welcome people to contact me to talk about how photography and videography might help their business. Even if they aren’t super clear about what they want as an end result, I am here to help brainstorm and come up with a cost-effective way to boost their marketing needs with my services.
Dan: Can you talk about the services you offer?
Frank: I have a full-service photography/videography studio to produce high-impact images of products, still life and conceptual-pictures. I also go on location to photograph and/or video my client’s facility, their products, their staff, and their equipment. I should add that photographing professionally for 30 years has taught me a lot about how to produce high quality, high-impact photography and video for my clients, both cost effectively and efficiently. My clients receive in-depth service that provides not only the most amazing pictures that can be made but also the attention required to successfully nurture their story.
I know in my heart that every client has a different story to tell. Every client has a different vision of what their company is and where it needs to go. I am versatile and resourceful and am able to help each of my clients by capturing images that are unique to their vision.
Generally, whatever it is that I photograph for a client sells; throughout the years it’s tried and true. Anything from jewelry, cars, mountain bikes, computers, giant plating equipment, drilling machines, rock and roll amplifiers, guitars, whatever the subject is that I photograph, equates to sales. My work is the conduit between my customer and their customers. My clients use the work that I create for their websites, press releases, brochures, tradeshow material, in-house videos for teaching uses, as well as external videos for the public, billboards, banners...
I believe that I become fully engaged in what my clients’ needs are. To me it is more than just about a job, it is about the relationship and delivering the best end product.
Dan: Frank, thanks for taking the time to talk with me today.
Frank: Always a pleasure, Dan. I really appreciate the opportunity to share my story.
Below is all of Frank’s contact information. For those of you who care enough about your marketing materials, your company and your image to use the very best in the business, get in touch with Frank and have him take care of your next project.