Interview with Franggy Yanes
© Jane Harvey-Berrick, December 2018
Franggy is best known for the book covers he’s been on, notably Brittainy Cherry’s much-loved story, The Air He Breathes, and there are another 60 out there for collectors. But Franggy has been working hard at his passion, photography, and moving out from under the shadow of being a model.
He’s tall, well over six feet, and has a commanding, almost intimidating presence that is softened by his delightful smile, sense of humour and innate kindness.
Originally from Venezuela, his family now live in Spain, but Franggy is based in Amsterdam, the same city as his younger brother, Manu, who made his modelling debut on the cover of Brazilian author Carol Dias’s romance novel, Cuida do meu Coração.
As we sit down to chat for this interview, he seems uncomfortable, his legs and hands moving restlessly, his answers short, but insightful.
Q Tell me about being a cover model.
I never really considered myself a model despite being on 60 something covers. Gina Maxwell (the romance author) saw my IG account and got in touch, and it went from there.
Q Would you say photography is a passion or a job?
In Venezuela, I couldn’t think about photography because I didn’t have access to cameras, but when I moved to Europe at 15, it all changed. Slowly, I started to realise that I wanted to give it a try because I could see things in a different way from other people.
Q How did you know you saw things in a different way?
I compared my photography from the places I’d been to others, and felt that I saw things in a different way.
Q Would you say you have a particular style?
I just want to feel emotion with a picture and then I click the shutter.
Q What sort of photography moves you most?
Historical street photography, how places used to be.
Q Can you give me an example?
I love cities in the past, 50s and 60s—it was a time of revolution in street photography. You can see how much we’ve changed in a short time.
Q Who are your influences?
Vivian Maier was a street photographer working in the 1950s. She worked as a nanny but her passion was really photography, and she started capturing New York. Her negatives were only discovered recently. I saw an exhibition in New York in 2014—amazing.
Q What was it about her work that captured your imagination?
Photographers inspire you in different ways, but I felt I understood why she took a certain picture. In particular, the self-portraits she took wherever she went. They were funny but also as a woman people didn’t approve. It gave a different perspective to everything she took.
Q Would you say that she unlocked something in you?
I’m struggling with the idea of getting in people’s personal space in street photography, but I learned from her that there’s a way you can do it.
Q Where would you like to work?
Asia, because I think their world is so distant to ours, it’s almost a different planet. Current photography is so overdone, it doesn’t feel special anymore, but Asia is very different. China, definitely. So many characterful populations, the cities or the farming that looks like it’s from the 1920s – it’s a way of travelling in time.
Q What do you enjoy about photography in Brazil?
I feel very connected, similar to how I grew up. It feels close to home.
Q Gergo Jonas is new to modelling – this is second photo-shoot for romance book covers. What was it like working with him?
He was open to listening to my advice whilst being surrounded by women, and shirtless! I like to be friendly first, explain what we’re going to do in a relaxed way. I explained what Andy Collins (the client, a Brazilian romance author) wanted to get from her shoot.
Q What makes a good model?
Someone who’s not afraid to be themselves. You don’t have to be anyone else.
Q What is your greatest passion in life?
Photography, but that’s a bit clichéd. Photography doesn’t sound as big now as it was in the past.
Q If that’s the case, what is the relevance today of photography?
It depends. If you’re doing it for a commercial purpose, that has its own relevance. But being a photographer isn’t see as being a person with skills. It’s great that people have access to equipment, but before it was rare.
I’ve finally found a way that I’m happy with my work. It feels like it’s not a hobby anymore.
I definitely think photography is relevant! The world needs to sell, we need visual arts. It’s more relevant than TV or commercials.
Q What do you want people to take from your work?
I want them to feel something – hate, love, connection with emotion. That’s my goal.
I treat the shoot with respect, I don’t intrude. Photographers who have overstepped the line, that’s not a natural picture.
Q What makes you laugh?
I love to laugh, but I’ve never analysed what makes me laugh.
Q What makes you uncomfortable?
Being pushed out of my comfort zone. We need challenges so I have to go through it constantly.
Q You definitely have a bromance with Stu Reardon. What makes you click?
His personality. I never met anyone so charismatic. He never has issues, he never gets mad; he’s always super happy and positive. I need that energy.
Q What makes him a great model?
The fact that he’s comfortable in his own skin. You can see that in every picture. Confidence.
Q Describe yourself in three words.
Stubborn, over-thinker, happy – finally.
Q What’s your philosophy of life?
My dad always told me to believe in myself, that I’m the one who limits me. I always keep that in mind.
Q How do you feel about working in romance novels as a photographer?
I feel covers are important and authors should give priority to every single cover.
Q What makes a bad cover?
One that’s not connected to the story.
Q What’s it like working for the Brazilian publisher Gift Box?
They’re the only publisher that I’m working with at the moment. I’ve been working in the world for four years now, and now Gift Box is the only one because they made us feel at home, they made us feel like family.
Q What do you expect from a Gift Day event?
Fun, hugs and noise!
Q Where do you see yourself in 10 years’ time?
In the middle of the forest with a few published books, my girl and family by my side, a relaxed life.
Q What advice would you give to 10 year old Fran?
Enjoy your life a bit more. And to hug my dad a lot more.
Q What’s your favourite thing to do other than photography?
Being at home with my girl, being disconnected from the world, a rainy day with a nice movie.
Q Which movie have you watched the most?
Super Bad! It’s so funny but I’m not normally a comedy person. I nearly pee my pants. My girl says, “I can’t believe you’re watching this again!”
Q What’s your favourite book?
I’ve never completed a book without being told to. [Jane’s jaw drops open in appalled shock as Fran keeps talking]. I’m more of a visual person.
Q Favourite song?
A band called ‘Young the Giant’ and their song Amerika. Because it gives me positive energy, and it’s my song with my girl, because I heard it at the beginning of our relationship.
Q “On Sunday afternoons I’ll be…”
Ordering ribs and watching a movie.
Q “Working out at the gym with Stu makes me…”
Tired and excited. Because I see that I can last longer so it motivates me. Especially with Stu, he really pushes me.
Q Who’s the messiest out of the two of you when you share a room?
Me, Fran. Stu is a clean freak, he tidies up. So I try to behave around him.
Q What makes you angry?
I don’t really get angry, but sometimes I expect the world to be as fast I am, but that’s my issue, not the world’s. I’m not patient.
Q What moves you to tears?
Nothing, I didn’t think I was human. But then my dad died. Now, any stupid movie or emotional thing can move me to tears.
Q Has a photograph ever made you cry?
It’s made me emotional, never to the point of crying, but definitely emotional.
Q What advice would you give to anyone wanting to be a photographer?
ADon’t go fast. Try to focus on your own style and not copy anyone else. That’s hard. It took me five years to call myself a photographer.
Q Can you sum yourself up for me?
Most of what you have seen of me isn’t even close to what I want to be. There’s a lot more to come.
Once the interview is over and the laptop is returned to its case, Franggy’s smile breaks out again. I can see his passion for photography and videography, his desire to learn and improve from the places, people and photographers who’ve gone before him. He’s insightful and thoughtful and more than happy to talk about his passions—especially once the interview is over.
Gotta love this guy—fun, funny, kind and thoughtful. What’s not to love?
You can see more of Franggy’s work at www.takeoneinmotion.com