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John Lamb, Published April 06 2014

Making a Scene: Francis has eye on ‘Past & Present’ and future

FARGO – At 31, Dan Francis is too young to remember many of the buildings featured in his photographs.

The photographer has made a name for himself over the past few years for taking historical pictures of downtown Fargo and shooting the same vantage point today. He combines the two images, keeping the classic shot in black and white and the contemporary view in color, showing how much things have changed.

The project, called “Fargo: Past & Present,” is on display at Edgewood Vista in Fargo, where Francis will speak at 10 a.m. Thursday about his work. The show will then move to the Uptown Gallery, which displays other works by the Fargo artist.

With an eye on “Past & Present,” Francis is also looking forward and experimenting with technological advances, like printing his photos on aluminum.

In his downtown Fargo studio last week he talked about working in the past and still moving into the future.

How did you come up with printing photos on aluminum?

Sometimes photography goes in stages, like canvases were big. … You kind of get away from the picture when it’s behind glass and frame. It’s just a different way to offer your art. Canvas is nice because it’s like a painting, but aluminum is different. Instead of whites, you see the metal when the light hits. The color is a little more vibrant. It really pops and gets your attention. It’s a unique feel.

How did you come up with the idea for the “Fargo: Past & Present” series?

I was at an antique store and came across an old postcard of the Carnegie Library (which stood from 1903 to 1970 at 625 2nd Ave. N., Fargo). I wanted to overlap that and show what was no longer there, kind of like a ghost image.

What have you learned from this project?

Reading about the first settlements here, that was weird. … Hotels were set up facing the railroad tracks. Fargo was the divorce capital for a while, so people would get off the train, check into a room to set up residency, then get back on the train and go home (until the divorce needed to be finalized). It’s not the best part of Fargo history.

(This project) is like a continuing history class of downtown. Any time I find an old photograph, I try to find out where it is.

Do you have favorite old buildings or sites?

You look at old buildings (points to the image of the Carnegie Library) and think, ‘This would’ve been nice to still have.’ (Reading the names of authors set in stone around the top of the building) Homer, Dante, Milton Shakespeare, that would be a neat landmark to still have. … The tennis courts where I play, it’s neat that that was the pool where my mom probably swam.

If you go

What: Dan Francis discusses his photo project, “Fargo: Past & Present”

When: 10 a.m. Thursday

Where: Edgewood Vista, 4420 37th Ave. S., Fargo

Info: Free


Readers can reach Forum reporter John Lamb at (701) 241-5533