Robert “Ferd” Frank Photographer

Through the last 12 years as a self taught photographer, I have shot many subjects ranging from all-girl roller derby action to “warts and all” portraiture to life on the Meramec River near my home in Fenton, Missouri. One of my favorite things is photographing the deterioration in blighted communities, so you could say I am an urban artist. On Saturday, December 28th, 2013 it was 60 degrees and there was some interesting cloud cover. A perfect day to explore. I drove along North Broadway and Cass Avenue and found many blighted buildings, some of them probably not long for the wrecking ball. Whenever I am on these missions I always keep an eye out for the painted sign for my good friend William Stage. Some of the signs in this grouping don’t fit the criteria that William has set for this website, but due to my post-processing talents and painterly eye, he has been kind enough to include them all.

As a serious photographer I have only shot digital. I currently use a Canon 5D Mark III with a variety of lenses. I edit my photos in Adobe Photoshop and Adobe Lightroom using a variety of plugins. Most of my images are processed in High Dynamic Range, which is a technique of using special software to blend multiple exposures of the the same image. The results provide more detail, shadows and highlights, which at times can give an illustrated look. This process works extremely well on ghost signs, their text faded to near-obscurity, as it brings out detail not seen in a normal photograph.

Thanks for your interest and enjoy, Ferd


Mound City Buggy Co. N. Broadway St. Louis 2013

A large, loquacious sign wall located just north of downtown, this one reflects the changing times in transportation—from making horse-drawn buggies to making pistons for early automobiles. By 1900, the Mound City Buggy and Auto Co. had offices variously located at 2007 Locust Street and on S. Broadway between Papin and Chouteau. The extant building on N. Broadway, pictured here, must have been the company’s manufacturing plant.


Crescent Planing Mill Co. North 9th Street St. Louis 2013

Due to a downturn in the construction industry, Crescent Planing closed its doors in the spring of 2012, after being in business 122 years. The building is now for sale.


Central Waste Material Co. N. Broadway St. Louis 2013

Central Waste Material is currently in the business of scrap metal. They sort, process and resell all manner of brass, copper, steel, iron and aluminum.


Swaine Manufacturing O’Fallon Street St. Louis 2013

Swaine Manufacturing is located just north of the Edward Jones Dome. In 1897, when the company was located at 207 Chestnut Street, Fred J. Swaine was making presses and sheet metal tools. Their punch press line was acquired by Alva Allen Industries in 1963.


Cass Ave. near 14th Street St. Louis 2013

“Why Not Earn 3% On Your Savings?” This blighted building was likely a Savings & Loan in its glory days, and later converted to a Chop Suey joint. Both enterprises are long gone.


Standard Stamping Co. N. Broadway St. Louis 2013

This long, four-story building with beautiful arched brick windows once housed the Standard Stamping Company, Biederman Furniture Company, and the American Surplus Warehouse.


Falstaff Brewery N. 20th Street St. Louis 2013

Editor’s Note. This is what the very informative website Built St. Louis has to say about the commercial buildings in this part of St. Louis: North of downtown, Broadway runs past a wide variety of industrial and warehousing buildings dating from the turn of the century. Interspersed between them are increasingly rare surviving residential buildings, holdouts from this area’s history as an integral part of the Old North St. Louis and Hyde Park neighborhoods. Interstate 70 effectively bisected these neighborhoods in the 1960s, to the point that the original boundaries of Old North are no longer commonly counted as part of the neighborhood.


Vess Neon Bottle O’Fallon Street St. Louis 2013

For decades this giant replica of a family-size Vess Soda Bottle stood at the bus stop at Hampton and Gravois, in South St. Louis. It was constructed by Treesh Neon Sign Company, East St. Louis, Illinois for the Vess Bottling Company of St. Louis. In 1953, it was believed to be the largest, revolving, lighted bottle in the world. At night it was lit by more than 600 lineal feet of neon tubing. In 1989, after the bottle had been found in storage, it was re-erected at 520 O´Fallon. It is mounted on a pole similar to the original, but no longer rotates. Once again, history repeats itself; the sign has fallen into disrepair.

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