Frank Siteman is so talented that he can take corporate photos of men in gray suits and turn them into Kodachrome poetry. He did this recently for an in-house presentation for a design firm, “repositioning it as a team agency, showing synergetic professionals. I like the accessible corporate image.” He says. Siteman can do that kind of imagery magic for everything from Old Spice body wash to a 16-page photo-illustrated CD booklet for a classical trumpeter. He sees the subjects’ potential, understands his clients’ needs and focuses a light at the end of the tunnel.
Siteman was raised in Saint Louis, Missouri, “a hotbed of beer and beef,” where his Uncle Sid gave him a camera when he turned 14. Soon afterward, Siteman was making 50 cents each for shooting portraits of new hires for the school-district’s newsletters. He also worked summers as a riverboat deckhand, but not on Mark Twain’s paddlewheel boats. These were “two heavy-duty diesel engines inside a 130-feet-long platform. Basically the boats are made up of huge diesel engines that push barges up and down the Mississippi River.”
After high school, Siteman enrolled at Tufts University. Finding a way to cover his tuition was a challenge that he met with Twain-like individualism: He traded portraits of the faculty for tuition payments. The public relations director at the school became a mentor, and Siteman ended up doing so much work for the school that they decided to waive his tuition.
“I started at Tufts majoring in chemistry,” he says. “There was no photography department there at the time. In fact,” he remembers, “I started the photography department at Tufts as an undergraduate. There was this program then at Tufts called The Experimental College” – it’s still extant, by the way – “where students could teach subjects not offered by the university. If there was a substantial demand, there’d be a mechanism for creating that course and integrating it into the university’s curriculum.”
His initial photography class, he says, ” hit a responsive chord. We had about 60 people wanting to get into the class, which we topped off at 15 or 20.” Of course, Siteman changed his major to visual communications, in which he got his B.A. In his first year out of college, Siteman taught photography at Boston’s Roxbury Latin School and Simmons College. Then, during his first Christmas break, he unwittingly started shooting for stock.
“I ended up on the spur of the moment booking a flight to Morocco,” he remembers. “One of my friends is a photographer who worked for a textbook publisher. I was only taking medium-format cameras on the trip, though I’d been told by my friend to take a 35mm to be able to shoot slides and sell them to textbook publishers.” Luck intervened on the way, in New York. “One camera broke, and I had a friend come to the airport and give me a 35mm camera and 4 rolls of film. This trip paid for itself 10 times over with the stock sales of just of few of the images made on that film.
Other trips took him from Iceland where he photographed an erupting volcano in an evacuated town, to Russia to document life at the transition to democracy, to Costa Rica and the Galapagos Islands to photograph endangered ecosystems.
Siteman also had adventures closer to home, he says. “I was teaching at the Orson Welles Film School,” a small institution affiliated with the fabled and now long-gone retrospective/art-film theater the Orson Welles Cinema, in nearby Cambridge, “when Welles came to Boston to do the world premiere of his documentary F for Fake. He needed a photographer to document his being in Boston.”
If the photographer has any regrets, it’s never having been a photo assistant. “My biggest professional mistake was not having had the advantages of working with other photographers in my youth,” he says. “There is so much to learn. It’s like apprenticing to any other craftsmen. There are inside tips to lighting things, and each camera has its strengths and weaknesses. I sometimes felt that I was re-inventing the wheel.”
Over the years, Siteman has shot annual reports for companies as diverse as Thermo Electron, Altana Pharma, and City Year, and has done advertising photos for clients such as Canon, Pfizer, and Boston Whaler – a small boat manufacturer a long ways from the Mississippi. His favorite job was a calendar for Hill’s Science Diet’s Pet Partners project. He traveled around the country taking photos of his favorite subject: people with their pets.
He is married and has a golden retriever and two cats. His wife has a BFA from Tufts University and functions as his IT person.
He discusses the Panasonic-Lumix – 1 camera he is using, and the future of the photography business with insight and candor. “I’m definitely looking forward to making images with this lens,” he says. “Sensors have become better than many lenses, so I’m always looking forward to better glass.”
And he’s shooting, and teaching. “I like to keep it fun,” he says of his photography classes. “Students should be shooting a lot, making images and making mistakes. I don’t think theory is as important as making mistakes…and being able to learn from those mistakes. With digital, the learning can be quick and easy. I like to have my students change their apertures and shutter speeds just to see what happens. They can always check the file info to see what they’ve done, and do it again if it was the effect they were looking for or just one they liked”
Call Digital Photo Academy at 1 877 372 2231. Lots of people seem to hang up if our welcome recording comes on instead of a live voice, but we promise to return your message within a day or two if you leave one with your name and number. It would be even better if you included your e mail address as well as the date and city of the class you are considering. If leaving a voice mail message is not your thing, please email us at DPAbooking@digitalphotoacademy.com or Richard@digitalphotoacademy.com.
Attached are a few of my photos from the Boston Waterfront workshop with Frank. It was a lot of fun and really informative learning from and working with him. He reinforced information I already knew and I came away with new ideas for techniques and composition. He is a great instructor with patience of a saint.
I hope to take another workshop with Frank again in the future.
Thanks for the workshop last night. It was fun. I don’t know how to upload my photos to the DPA website.
You are welcome to share mine with whoever.
Thanks again. I look forward to future instructions from you.
Thank you for the great workshop and opportunity to learn from a master. It was fun to meet you and other participants and learn something new. It gave me a much needed boost to go out and take pictures, some inspiration that I started losing. It was even more fun to share our deeply personal memories of Brezhnev 🙂 And wow! – it’s been a very long time since I heard word “putsch” used for coup. ”
Good to meet you last night. I had a wonderful time learning, taking pictures and meeting the other class participants. Here are my pictures from the evening shoot. Could you please send me the email addresses of our friends from Europe so I can forward the link to them?
Ed and I want to thank you for a great class last night.
We loved learning by example – by taking photos and talking to us about what worked and didn’t, you made the whole process come to life. Your energy and enthusiasm was contagious!
Attached is a photo I took on the spur of the moment.
Hoping to study with you again. Let us know what’s coming.
” Hi there Frank,
I took your class a couple weekends ago to learn some new things about my camera. I enjoyed the class very much and loved learning about some of your tips and tricks. I plan to take your class again to get some more practice in sometime in the spring once all of this snow has melted and the weather is warmer.
I look forward to talking with you soon and hopefully will be seeing you come spring time to learn more about photography.
Thank you for such a great class. I already have learned so much and have seen a difference in my camera skills.”
“Thanks for all of your help in ensuring that I got the info for today’s workshop. I am very glad I was able to attend.
Despite the frosty temperature we were able to get some invaluable information and guidance about using our cameras and techniques for composing good shots. I really appreciated and enjoyed Frank’s presentation.The time we spent outside was limited due to the cold but that was quite valuable as well.
Thanks for the alumni discount and I am looking forward to taking more DPA workshops in the near future.
I just wanted to let you know how happy I was with the workshops on Saturday. I came in for the know your camera controls ( I think that was the official name). I have to say that I learned so much in such a short time. I have already put into use what I learned. You were quite informative and I loved your stories (history) and your analogies. I especially liked the cup of water one, if you have a moment to send that to me I would love it. I look forward to joining more of your workshops.
Thank You so much again, ”
Thanks for an informative and enjoyable workshop today. I enjoyed it and got a lot out of it. And thanks for your flexibility given the weather conditions.
I hope to connect with your colleague at Northeastern when I’ back in the office.
You took some shots of me through the window at the T station. I’d like to see what you’ve come up with if you get a chance to work on them.
Thanks again and I hope to see you at another workshop.”
“Thanks for a most informative and enjoyable seminar.”
“I just wanted to say thank you to Frank Siteman for a great class! I got so much out of it and got so many great pictures.”
“Thanks for sharing your photos and for the class. I learned a lot about composition which I love.
Now, I have to practice! practice! practice!”
“Thanks again for a great class Frank. I got a couple of okay pictures out of it…time to buy a tripod!”
“Thank you for a great class.”
“I enjoyed our class. Here are some of my better shots. I sent one of them to Lavender’s owners.”
“I enjoyed our photo composition class at the Copley Library on Saturday. Here is the picture you asked me to send in but I don’t know where to send it so I thought I would send it to you to pass along. This was taken with my Cannon powershot SD 1300IS on manual inside setting with an ISP of 150.”
– Colleen Kochman
“I like the story of accessories in this one.
This is the one I sent Lavender’s owners.
Don’t really like the background, but this one was for you.
This could have been better if I had moved a little right and put Lavender in the gap between you and the two students on your right.
Trying to tell the same story here. Unfortunately Lavender is slightly out of focus.”
“It was an honor and a pleasure to spend the day with Frank Siteman for the Digital Photography Seminar in Boston, a rare opportunity and a real treat to learn from a master photographer and an accomplished businessman. I learned a lot from the picture taking tour of Winchester – a very photogenic town, and then most of the day benefiting from Frank’s expert critique and mastery of Adobe Photoshop. It has renewed my resolve to take better pictures and learn the Photoshop as thoroughly as possible. Thank you very much, and thanks for the souvenir – the reflector, I am sure each ding represents a masterpiece.”
– Parvez Bukhari
“I had a wonderful day with you on Saturday. I truly gained way more value than the price of admission. It is amazing to me to talk with you and others who have been in this business so long and come at it from such artistic depths. I don’t know if I will ever have artistic depth, but I sure do love digital photography, especially macro work and portraiture.
I know that you will continue to be hired for the artistic vision that you bring to this medium. Please also know that you are an excellent instructor and your passion really comes through in your class.
I hope that if I’m ever in the Boston/NH area I can call you and maybe we could do a day of shooting– That would be fun!
Thanks again for a wonderful day!”
– Michel Marie Rose
“I had a great time Saturday in class. I learned some things that I did not know about, so please keep up good work and I hope to see you in the December class. Thank you for good day Saturday. ps, what do you think of Nik Software Sharpener Pro 2.0?”
– John R Reali, Jr.
“I enjoyed the day with Frank and as a result will start shooting in raw, using aperture priority and getting more knowledgeable with Photoshop. My son can get an education discount so I’m looking into getting Lightroom and Adobe Photoshop CS3.
Here are the pictures I brought down to the workshop. Thanks for an enjoyable day!”
– David Valle
“Thank you, I really enjoyed the workshop. I learned a lot and it was a good group of people.”
– Peter Bixby
“The scales have fallen from my eyes: I now (finally) understand why I should almost always be shooting in RAW. It changes everything for me. As someone who was not totally in love with my digital camera before the workshop, I am now excited and enthusiastic about shooting again. Also, the tutorial Frank gave us with masks in Photoshop alone would have been worth the price of admission. Frank’s upbeat style, clear explanations and willingness to go over some things multiple times meant that the new material was retained and understood and was immediately usable. Attached find two photos. One is my original which I shot Friday the day before the workshop. You can see my low tech reflector: a linen napkin. The other portrait is the one I was able to create from it on Sunday, based on what I learned on Saturday.”
– Sally Reed
“I was trying to crop a picture and was able to use the tool to show what I want it to be but don’t know how to finalize the crop. Your help is greatly appreciated and thank you very much for sharing the picture of Jamie. She was very excited to see it. I have remembered quite a bit from class on Saturday and do remember how to zoom in on a specific subject, yippee!!!! Thanks again for all your help and I look forward to taking some more classes with you to fine tune my skills. I still have lots more to learn.”
– Coreen Powderly
“Your studio class was nothing short of wonderful – I learned a ton and had tons of fun. I have a pyramid of nuggets!! I decided a couple of weeks ago to give raw a try, but didn’t know how to use the converter. Now I do. Below are some photos of Mittens – she and her owners had a great time as we all did!
See you in the new year for more!
with many thanks.”
– Edith Clifford
“Thanks so much for the class on Saturday. We learned quite a bit about portraits and about photography in general.
It is really enjoyable to learn from someone who is very knowledgeable and passionate about what they do.
Please thank your wife again for the treats she made for all of us, they were great! Looking forward to another class soon Frank, and thanks also for the info regarding the purchase of a new camera. I’m glad i waited to talk to you first. Loved meeting Beans also, hope she’s doing well.
See you soon.”
– Gary Fournier
“I am writing you for two reasons. First, thank you so very much for yesterday. For the longest time I have been fearful to enter the digital world because I was so comfortable with film. When my camera got stolen, I never had the desire to continue because that camera was almost a part of me. When I was very young, I saved S&H green stamps to buy a camera and for my birthday my parents gave me a Bell & Howell Electric Eye camera. That camera got destroyed. I then moved on to the 35mm and did not have too much of a problem with it and when that got stolen, I lost my interest in photography. My boss, Dr. Torres (Wilson) brought his camera to school one day and I got that yearning to be behind the camera but was not sure if I could enter the digital world and be comfortable.
He was the one that suggested going to the class and by doing so I am now not so fearful. You did an excellent job, have a wonderful sense of humor, and are an honest man. It is because of you I feel bonded with my new digital camera.
The other reason I am writing is because I have looked everywhere for that photograph of the wheelchair in the snow. I know Dr. Torres was impressed with it so I would like to purchase one for him, for his office.
I would also like to put it in my classroom to illustrate that as humans we can do just about anything we put our mind to. That photograph leaves one wondering …………..where did the person go. So many of our students come from teribble backgrounds and get no support from their parents. Your photograph is one that would make them question.
Again, thank you for yesterday………”
– Pamela Stead
“The workshop was an excellent learning experience and I thoroughly enjoyed. Meeting and talking to you was a pleasure as always.
Took a short vacation last week and just got back.
Let me know when you are ready to off-load some stuff and I would be happy to come and take a look. I am slowly building my studio one item at a time
Look forward to meeting you again.”
– Ravinder Shan
“I came to this class thirsty for a drink of knowledge. Frank gave us a fire hose! Great class. I’d do it again for the things I missed or didn’t absorb the first time!”
– Bill Connolly
“Thanks to you Frank, for a very interesting and informative class. I’ve already put some of your Photoshop skills to work and I must say, the techniques make a world of difference including the sizing shortcut to increase or decrease the size of the brush tool. That alone was worth the price of admission LOL.
I have to admit there are some things I could do better and hope you will be kind enough to entertain questions here and there once I know what to ask.
Again, thanks for a very enjoyable and fund way to learn photography. All the best.”
– Harvey Avidon