I didn’t mean to imply anything sinister by the title of this post about Don Francione. I’m just pointing out that he was able to do something in life that many of us only dream about–to spend our lives doing the things that we love to do. We all know how hard it is to work a full time job and pursue other interests. In New York, it’s even more of a challenge because there’s always so much to do here; your own creative energy often gets stymied by merely going-out-on-the-town– ’cause this is one “helluva town.” Photographer Don Francione figured out how to do it. Through the small but immensely interesting photograph collection he donated to the Brooklyn Historical Society in 1989, a part of Brooklyn is captured forever. (see the Don Francione photograph collection – V1989.019)
For 40 years, Francione worked during the day as a laborer at Bush Terminal in Sunset Park, Brooklyn. At night, he chronicled Brooklyn–from boxing to Scott Baio, from theater and Tex Ritter–via working as a photographer and writer for the Bay Ridge-based Home Reporter and Sunset News, as well as for some other Brooklyn-based newspapers. In 1984, Francione was even able to (unwittingly, I’m presuming) help the NYPD’s Organized Crime Strike Force identify Carmine “the Doctor” Lombardozzi, a purported Gambino crime family bigwig, at the Kings Plaza Kiwanis Club in Brooklyn where they suspected he was running a loansharking operation and using the Kiwanis Club as a front. Francione shot the photograph of Lombardozzi while covering a story for the Home Reporter and Sunset News. Luckily, the cops read newspapers! New York Magazine wrote about it in their February 13, 1984 issue. Francione is credited with the photograph on the bottom of the page. (Just a note: Regarding Lombardozzi and the Kiwanis Club connection, I don’t know how this case turned out or if it was true. If anyone does know, or takes offense at the implications, let us all know by replying to this post.)
I’m just going to present a few of the photographs from the collection, based solely on my personal favorites from the collection (click on the photos for larger views). Of course, to see all of them, come in to the library where you can view them all via our image database. And one last parting thought. In an article written about Francione in 1979 by Angela Canade for the Home Reporter and Sunset News (“The Face Behind the Camera,” March 30, 1979), Francione discloses that it was his mother that bought him his first camera when still a child. He then went on to teach himself how develop and print film and eventually bought himself a professional 35mm camera. Cheers to his mum!