Beauty, Glamour + Fashion

Fascinating Transformations: Fine, Queer, and Proud with David Franco

June 6, 2024

By Abbey Pleviak

From RuPaul’s DragCon to his fine art studio, David Franco has discovered a passion for documenting and celebrating the LA queer community — especially its drag queens. His first introduction to photographing drag artists came when a friend who manages drag queens invited him to DragCon. David says that experience taught him that drag is “not just sequins and gowns. There’s a whole punk rock aspect to it, and there’s just so many styles.”

Coming from a design background, David sees each drag performer bringing a distinctive brand voice to their personas, which go through fascinating transformations over time. David has gone through his own personal transformations by photographing drag artists. Having been raised in a strict Catholic family, he initially found it difficult to share his work and had an urge to keep it a secret. But he says, “little by little, the armor starts to come off, and you start to become your own person.”

© David Franco

He also says that he was aided in his own transformation by seeing just how helpful his portraits have been for his subjects. Photographing drag performers has helped David understand the value and impact of his work. Many artists in the drag community have had traumatic experiences, but performing drag helps them transform that trauma into personal power. And having stunning fine art images of their creative expression turns that art into a lasting legacy.

David recently appeared on The Portrait System Podcast with host Nikki Closser to talk about how he has been developing his fine art photography business. You can read more about it and listen to that podcast in Fine Art for Drag Performers. Below, David shares a bonus Q&A where he offers advice to new photographers on how to build their own dream photo business. Follow David on Instagram.

David Franco © David Franco

David Franco Q&A

For someone starting out on their photography journey what advice would you have for them? 

That photography itself is only a very small part of this career path. You need self-value, a business plan, and to put in the time to network and market yourself. You also don’t need very much to get started, even with all the fancy toys available to buy, you really just need a basic lens, good direction, and vision. 

How has The Portrait System changed your life for the better?  

I started in this industry with absolutely no idea what I was doing, having come from a graphic design background. I was looking for resources and a mentor and I found that in spades with The Portrait System. I also found my tribe, and lifelong friendships which you can’t put a price on.  

© David Franco

What fellow artists in the industry do you gain the most inspiration from? 

I absolutely love the work Richard Wood and Tony Carter put out. Richard is wonderful at creating concepts that stir conversation, and Tony has a gift for showing ordinary people in extraordinary ways. I’m also inspired by Tim Walker and Peter Lindbergh. Their work constantly amazes me. 

Do you regret any decisions you have made in your business?  

Buying a bunch of equipment that I never touch. If I could go back, I would start small, and learn my gear before buying something new.  

Where do you see your business in the next 5 years? 

As I continue my work in self-value, I see myself with a sustainable business that markets itself to people from all walks of life. When I see clients come in, and I can help them heal by letting them see the best version of themselves, it also helps me heal. 

[Read: Long Live the Queens, Aaron Jay Young Photo Book Q&A]