Interview with Photographer Frank Van Riper

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Interview with Photographer Frank Van Riper
Frank Van Riper is an American photographer whose work has been published internationally, and is found in the permanent collection of the National Portrait Gallery in Washington, D.C. His 1998 book of photography and essays, Down East Maine/A World Apart, was nominated for a Pulitzer Prize. He is a widely read photography columnist at and for many years was the photography columnist of The Washington Post. Before that he served as White House correspondent, national political correspondent and Washington Bureau news editor for the New York Daily News. A former Nieman Fellow at Harvard, in 2007 he was awarded the Distinguished Achievement Award from the University of Maine at Machias for his outstanding career in journalism and photography, and in 2011 he  was inducted into the City College of New York Communications Alumni Hall of Fame. Van Riper is also a popular teacher and lecturer. He and his wife Judith Goodman jointly teach photography workshops in Maine and in Umbria, Italy, and they are the coauthors of the best-selling book of photography and essays, Serenissima: Venice in Winter. They are currently working on their next book, with the working title, The Green Heart of Italy: Umbria and its Ancient Neighbors. “This will be the first of my books to be all in color—the images that we made over the course of more than ten years of workshop teaching all over Umbria are sumptuous,” he says. Van Riper recently took the time to answer Janet Hulstrand’s questions about his most recent book, Recovered Memory: New York & Paris 1960-1980. Recovered Memory book cover Janet Hulstrand: When is the first time you were in Paris? And what do you love most about it?  Frank Van Riper: The first trip was in the late ‘70s, with my first wife, visiting our friends, Neil and Carol Offen, who had moved to Paris as freelance writers. The quality of the morning  light was the first thing I loved about the city—it seemed to bathe everything in a golden wash. Then there was the elegant symmetry, and stunning architecture. The food and wine weren’t bad, either. Janet: You were born and bred in New York: what do you love most about it?  Frank: I think any New Yorker would ultimately say the city’s energy is its greatest calling card. There is an air of possibility in the Apple that seems to say you can do whatever the hell you want, if you work hard enough. Part of it simply may be that one is not limited by one’s location—you can get damn near everywhere on the subway—and at any time. The NYC subway remains for me one of the world’s modern miracles. Finally, the mix of cultures and races in the city adds to its vibrance. This is not to say things are ideal—Covid-19 has thrown a tragic light on society’s inequities—but I am proud of the way NY has battled the disease and, with the help of its ballsy governor, has seemed to battle this &^%$! virus at least to a temporary standstill. This stands in stark contrast to the criminal incompetence of the Trump administration—not to mention the monumentally stupid actions of the mostly southern states who, following Trump’s dictates, have reopened way too soon.

Lead photo credit : Portrait of Frank Van Riper. Credit © Judith Goodman.

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Janet Hulstrand is a freelance writer, editor and teacher who divides her time between France and the U.S. She is the author of "Demystifying the French: How to Love Them, and Make Them Love You," and she writes frequently on France for a variety of publications, including her blog, Writing from the Heart, Reading for the Road. She teaches “Paris: A Literary Adventure” for the education abroad program of Queens College of the City University of New York; classes at Politics & Prose bookstore in Washington D.C.; and Writing from the Heart workshop/retreats in Essoyes, a beautiful little village in the Champagne region (l’Aube).


  • Janet Hulstrand
    2020-09-18 07:37:37
    Janet Hulstrand
    Hi Kathleen, Thanks for this comment, I'm glad you enjoyed the interview. It's a wonderful book, I'm quite sure you will enjoy it too. And as a matter of fact, I will be teaching an online class for Politics & Prose starting October 2, It's called "A Literary Journey into the Heart of France" I hope you'll consider joining us!


  • KATHLEEN Conklin
    2020-09-16 06:23:10
    KATHLEEN Conklin
    This was very interesting! I have been a fan of Paris and photography since my first visit there in 1974. I also took a photo workshop with Peter Turnley in March 2015, so follow his work closely. Learned about the French by reading French or Foe by fellow Wellesley alum Polly Platt! Paris and NYC are my favorite places to do street photography. I would be interested in attending an event with Janet Hulstrand at Politics & Prose, as I live in the DC area.


  • jason gold
    2020-09-16 03:31:56
    jason gold
    Glad to see you, used to read your "Column". full of interesting reflections and thoughts.. Ah! Paris. Not like NYC in anyway..The French and really the true French are Parisians (everybody else is suspect). Parisians are way greater readers, more intellectual and the French language guarded as if it was life itself. I was sent o Geneva, Switzerland where "they" spoke 3 languages.. French,Good French and excellent French..I was in "French 101 " the whole time! Don't ask about Paris..