By Donald R. Winslow
DURHAM, NC (December 9, 2014) – There are storytellers, and then there are master storytellers.
Longtime NPPA member Bill Frakes, a native of Nebraska and one of the world's best-known photojournalists and filmmakers, has focused his master storytelling talents on his homeland to create, produce and launch an ongoing labor of love, "The Nebraska Project."
In a way that only a native can appreciate the beauty of some places, like sitting in a freezing duck blind at 3:00 a.m. to be ready to photograph thousands and thousands of Sand Hill Cranes lifting off from the Platte River Valley, all the while thinking that this is absolutely the very best place in the world one could ever be, Frakes brings Nebraska to life in the way that someone in love sees only the very best in their lover.
"For me, there's no greater place on earth," Frakes says. "I've worked in 138 countries and every American state, and this is my favorite. It's part and parcel of who I am."
Born in Nebraska's western ranching Badlands, Frakes launched from his home state to study economics at Arizona State University, then journalism at the University of Kansas, and then law school at the University of Mississippi. As if that wasn't enough, then he became an award-winning news photographer, starting at The Miami Herald in 1979 where he was a member of the Pulitzer Prize-winning Miami Herald staff honored for their coverage of Hurricane Andrew. Frakes was also the University of Missouri School of Journalism's POYi Newspaper Photographer of the Year in 1983.
Moving onward and upwards, then he traveled the world as a Sports Illustrated staff photographer before becoming a filmmaker and music video and advertising director. Along the way he's won four World Press Photo awards, the notable Robert F. Kennedy Journalism Award, and honors for distinguished reporting from the Overseas Press Club. Today his multimedia company, Straw Hat Visuals, has Fortune 500 corporations and indy rock bands as clients. Frakes has been an NPPA member since 1978.
Of his Nebraska homeland Frakes says, "This is an important place, not only to me personally but to America. It's the center of our country. Bedrock values, the agricultural heart of the nation. It's the last frontier, the American dream. I've never met a stranger in Nebraska. There's a story around every corner, and they need to be told.
The filmmaker spent more than one-third of 2014 kicking around Nebraska, making photographs, shooting videos, and collecting stories. He planned the year so that he could spend every possible free day on the plains, shooting in Nebraska in between editorial and commercial assignments.
"The work has just started," he says. "In 2015, I want to spend even more time here."
"The Nebraska Project" is now live and online at www.nebraskaproject.com.