Frank Comisar Bio
Frank Comisar | Creative Stewardship
By Mara Blackwood
Nature photographer Frank Comisar has always had a deep love for the majesty of the outdoors, especially the American West. He preserves the incredible beauty of the natural world through the lense of his camera, creating images that are full of elegance and life.
Comisar was born and raised in Omaha, Nebraska, where he had a normal, happy childhood. He explains, “Like so many traditional families of that era, we lived for summer vacation. I have vivid memories of my parents loading me and my sisters into the backseat of the family Chevy and heading west each summer. We visited many of our Nation’s iconic National Parks and spent time camping, hiking, rafting, and taking pictures of these incredible places.”
His father, though not a professional photographer, often had a camera in hand, capturing the beautiful scenery and wildlife they saw on these trips. His enthusiasm for nature and photography left a strong impression on Comisar, who also began to enjoy nature photography as a hobby.
As he grew up, Comisar continued to enjoy taking photographs on the rare occasions when he visited natural wonders like Yellowstone, Mesa Verde, and Glacier National Parks. However, he says, “I was not satisfied simply taking snapshots. I wanted more. I was not only interested in documenting my travels through photography but the artistic aspects of photography as well.” Even though he did not pursue it professionally initially, Comisar continued to cultivate his love for photography.
Professionally, he took a different direction, earning a degree in architecture from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln and beginning a long career in that field. Soon after graduating, Comisar married and started a family. As he worked to become a successful architect and raise two children with his wife, Cheril, he had very little time to pursue photography and let that interest take the back seat.
Comisar worked as an architect for 27 years and eventually became president and CEO of an architecture and engineering firm. Despite the incredible professional and monetary success he experienced during this phase of his life, he began to see that something important was missing.
Looking to fill that void, Comisar began to rediscover his passion for nature photography, which became an “escape from the corporate grind.” He started attending workshops taught by masters of fine-art nature photography and becoming familiar with the work of prominent American photographers like Ansel Adams and Edward Curtis. Both of these photographers became major influences for Comisar’s own photography.
One of Curtis’ pieces, “Canyon de Chelly-Navajo (1904)”, was a source of awe and inspiration for Comisar and led him to the Four Corners area of the Southwest for the first time. The stunning landscape of that area quickly became a favorite source of subject matter for his photographs. “I love the big landscapes available here,” he says. “The four corners area offers incredibly diverse subject matter. From the mountains and deserts of Colorado, New Mexico, Arizona, and Utah, the photo ops are never-ending.”
Along with capturing the beautiful landscapes of the West, Comisar has also developed a love for photographing wildlife, especially birds. “Bird photography is very challenging as they move fast and are unpredictable. As such, to me there are few photographic experiences as satisfying as capturing a great image of a bird in its natural habitat.”
Though Comisar is now a full-time nature photographer, his work is heavily influenced by his previous experience as an architect. Architects work with two dimensional media, such as paper and computer screens, to create our three dimensional built environment. In a somewhat related way, photographers capture the scale, emotion, and grandeur of the three dimensional world on two dimensional media such as paper, canvas, and metal. Many of the same principles of depicting the three-dimensional world in two dimensions apply to both photography and architecture, and Comisar’s work is well-known for applying these principles artistically. Working as an architect also taught him that “. . . the creative process is not a destination but a journey. It is a journey that includes research, planning, timing, technical skills, creative judgment, and a bit of good luck.”
Comisar shows his photographs at Scenic Aperture Gallery, which he owns with his wife, Cheril. Visitors to the gallery, which is located on historic Main Avenue in Durango, Colorado, have called his work “stunning,” “crisp,” and “gorgeous.” He is also a member of the North American Nature Photography Association, and his work has been featured in a number of publications.
Additionally, he teaches workshops for aspiring photographers, giving them the skills he has developed over years of his own training and experience and opportunities to photograph some of the beautiful landscapes and wildlife he has come to love. The encouragement and mentorship he received at the beginning of his development as a photographer has been key to his success, and he hopes to share that with other photographers.
Comisar’s journey to becoming a professional nature photographer was a long one, but Comisar has found joy in pursuing beauty. “I feel alive and energetic when surrounded by the flora and fauna of our natural world,” he says. “I strive to communicate these emotions through my photography. My goal is to capture a moment in time that, when viewed in years to come, recalls the excitement and emotions of that moment. I know I’ve made a relevant photograph when it elicits a positive and emotional reaction from others.”
He feels that it is his mission as an artist to “promote understanding, appreciation, and stewardship of our natural treasures.”