Matt Frank has always carried his own unique viewpoint of Chelsea, his own deep respect and love for a city he grew up in during its worst times, and for which he helped shepherd as a City Councillor during the ascent to some of its best times.
Now, after having retired from politics last election cycle, the life-long Chelsea resident has turned to a life behind the camera – taking up photography in a serious way and making more than a hobby out of it. Last weekend, he premiered his first solo show at the Chelsea Prospers Gallery in the windows of the former Salvation Army store.
“The show is up and I think we had a great opening before the Night Market last weekend,” he said. “This is a show I call ‘Modern Nostalgia.’ The focus is the things we know here that we have lost. We lost the water tower at the Soldiers’ Home and the Chelsea Clock building and the old Clark Avenue School, which I have pictured aside the new Clark Avenue School building…There are pictures of the downtown and the Tobin Bridge and one of kayakers on the Creek by the Bridge at sunset. Many don’t see Chelsea as elegant and pretty. But I think my photos are how a lot of residents see Chelsea…It’s an aspirational image and that’s how we feel about Chelsea at its best.”
Frank began playing around with a camera many years ago when he was working in Harvard Square, taking pictures for his job there as a necessity. It was a situation where he once got a very iconic photo of Lady Gaga when she was in Harvard Square visiting.
After he left the Council, he said he was looking for a hobby and all signs pointed to his camera. He purchased a little better camera and went to work in his hometown.
Since then, he has captured images that have gotten great feedback from residents as he showed them prints or posted them online – motion photos of Bellingham Square, or swans in Mill Creek, or sunsets over the Mystic/Tobin Bridge.
Soon, he was one of the leading voices – among many voices – in what Frank and others are calling the ‘Beautiful Chelsea’ movement.
That has come not just in the form of traditional photographs, but also with photo pillows, magnets, mugs and other items.
“It’s becoming a bit of a movement now,” he said.
Frank said he would like to continue his journey by adding more portraits, and more photos of people, but he said he also likes the idea of continuing on with inspiring photos of Chelsea. “Maybe I’ll focus on different communities, but honestly the Chelsea ones get a great reaction,” he said. “That’s because I know Chelsea. I suspect when I take pictures of other cities, it’s the same way. I think that what it is. My Chelsea pieces have my spirit in it. I think I see Chelsea in the way that others from Chelsea see it.”