The Life and Times of Frank Cricchio

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Texas and the Nation Mourns the Loss of a Legend

by
Bill Hedrick

My first introduction to Frank Cricchio dates back to about 1979. He was an ever-smiling, somewhat flamboyant gentleman who naturally attracted the attention of everyone in the room. It was quite obvious that he was deeply involved in photography and enjoyed sharing his wealth of knowledge with others. Just a few years earlier, he became the first Director of the newly-organized Texas School of Professional Photography which began on the campus of East Texas State University in Commerce, Texas, which today is home to Texas A&M – Commerce.

Over the years, Frank was also a sales representative for some photographic companies such as FUJI and could be seen at trade shows, eagerly demonstrating the latest technology with style and enthusiasm. But it wasn’t until I attended one of his programs that I truly appreciated the depth of his knowledge. In those days, the typical professional photographer had a studio with lights and props and those who were successful at their trade knew lighting and posing techniques that set themselves far apart from the amateurs. Many of them learned it all from Frank, including myself. He was bigger than life and there weren’t too many places in the United States and even abroad where the name Frank Cricchio wasn’t known and respected.

But it wasn’t until Hurricane Rita around 2005 that I became a close friend to Frank Cricchio when he was forced to evacuate his Port Arthur home and stayed at my house for a few days. He actually stayed the first night with some other photographer friends in my area but quickly discovered that he was a bit too old for a “hurricane party” and was ready for a bit more peace and quiet. We grilled some steaks and talked about photography and those photographers who had come and gone over the years.

Indeed, Frank Cricchio was the icon of professional photography and was considered to be one of the greatest photographic educators in the United States. He taught for more than a half century with a gift for making the most difficult lighting and posing setups seem very simple, yet extremely effective. His teaching style was captivating, beginning with a basic understanding of achieving a perfectly exposed image right out of the camera, either in the studio or on location. Few could walk away from his captivating performance, and he was constantly surrounded by students and fellow photographers outside of class who wanted to learn more.

He was honored nationally by the Professional Photographers of America with the prestigious Lifetime Achievement Award, designed for only a select few individuals for a lifetime of service. In addition, he was a member of the Camera Craftsmen of America, the oldest and most exclusive photographic club with membership limited to only 40 or so worldwide. Frank also served as President of the Professional Photographers of America from 1999 to 2004 and the Texas Professional Photographers Association in 1975.

But his lectures and service was not limited to the United States. Over the years, Frank traveled and lectured around the world to countries including Italy, Japan, Australia, New Zealand, the United Kingdom, Germany, Austria, Spain, Ireland, Hong Kong, South Korea, Philippines, Taiwan, and South America.

Service to his own community was also one of Frank’s passions. He was very devoted to Rotary Club and had over a half century of perfect attendance and served as the Executive Secretary and Treasurer for his local club. During that time, he was instrumental in starting “I Made a Difference” award after a local girl saved her family. The club raised money for a scholarship that was presented to her.

Like many others, Frank Cricchio had his high and low points in life, but he always faced each challenge with a smile and positive attitude. To those of us who had been acquainted with him over the years, he was a true friend who was always eager to share his vast knowledge and wisdom with everyone, regardless of their expertise or level of experience. He dedicated his life to sharing with and teaching photographers throughout the world and his life is a testimony to dedication to the photographic profession.

The Star of Texas Lifetime Achievement Award was recently renamed by the TPPA Board of Directors as The Frank Cricchio Star of Texas Lifetime Achievement Award in honor of its first recipient, Frank Cricchio.

One of Frank Cricchio’s most devoted fans was the late Judy Dumas of Brownwood, Texas. For years, Judy took his class at Texas School and worked as his wrangler. Over the years, he would come to depend on Judy more and more and, as time went on and took its toll on the profession and Frank himself, Judy proposed an idea to honor people like Frank who had devoted his life to teaching photography.

It was called the Texas Star Award and Frank Cricchio was its first recipient in 2013 and only one of two who have received this award since then. The award is quite similar to the PPA National Award, of which Frank is also a recipient, but is strictly a Texas award of the highest honor. It is presented to unique individuals who have given of themselves in service, leadership roles, and education in the advancement of the photographic industry. Now that Frank and Judy have both left us, it was only fitting that the TPPA Board of Directors recently voted to rename the award the “Frank Cricchio Texas Star of Texas Award.”