Catching up with Frank Bevans—the PCB Industry’s Premier Photographer


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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. CircuiTree enjoyed 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.

painted_lady.jpgDan: 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:

  • 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.jpg

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.

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