( ENSPIRE Community Spotlight ) The US Marine Veteran and Photojournalist Tells His Transformative Story Using Photography
ENSPIRE Contributor: Natalie Wong
Photojournalist and United States Marine Corps Veteran, Third Eye Journey (Ian Frank) has captured powerful emotions and subjects in his photographs about what it means to be Black in the United States. Third Eye Journey’s images have garnered the attention of leading voices in the community. Lately, his photographs have been featured in the HBO special, Between The World and Me, based on author Ta-Neshisi Coates’ book of the same name. The special is now available for streaming on HBO.com.
Ian Frank was born in New York and raised between New York and New Orleans and had a unique upbringing with challenging twists and turns. Frank is disabled and a United States Marine Corps Veteran who pivoted to commercial photography and video editing after his service. He then decided to completely change his career course through photojournalism and documentary photography. This massive shift happened while his eldest son was receiving chemotherapy for brain cancer. His first defining image, titled “Cancer Sucks” depicts his youngest son standing by his brother’s bedside. Frank attributes this moment when he decided to give up his old life and become committed to serving others, and began his work professionally known as Third Eye Journey.
Frank feels this transformation has given him a sense of purpose and believes he can make a difference in the world through his photography. Growing up in urban centers and becoming an active duty service member exposed him to the hardships and ills of society and altered his outlook on life. Frank says, “Everything and everyone has a story and it should be captured and shared with the world. I have wasted a lot of time destroying things and now it is time to create and as this new chapter in my life begins, I’ve realized for years I have carried a weapon that was designed to kill, now I carry a weapon that helps.”
Ian vows to help others and be a voice for the voiceless and highlights societal, class, and racial issues. Subjects and topics of his photojournalism include his recent coverage of Black Lives Matter protests, police brutality, Charlottesville, Native Nations, homelessness, and Hurricane Katrina. Frank’s work has been featured in Newsweek, The New York Daily News, CNN, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, and on HBO’s Vice News. His work from the Standing Rock protests (Cannonball, N.D.) is also part of a permanent art collection at Yale University’s Law School (Baker Hall).
Frank’s photography has most recently been featured in Between The World and Me, which debuted this November on HBO. First published in 2015, Between The World and Me convey Coates’ experiences growing up in Baltimore and his growing fear of daily violence against the Black community. The special features an all-star cast including Mahershala Ali, Angela Bassett, Ta-Nehisi Coates, Angela Davis, Tip “T.I.” Harris, Janet Mock, Oprah Winfrey, and more. Originally adapted and staged by the Apollo Theater in 2018, the special combines elements of that production, including powerful readings from Coates’ book. The special features documentary footage from the actors’ home life, archival footage, and animation, and was produced under COVID-19 guidelines.
All of us have the ability to make a change in our lives, and Frank’s story of growth and transformation came out of a desperate need and a sense of responsibility. Frank’s work is empowering and impactful no matter who the viewer is, and more importantly, is able to bring groups of communities together for a united cause.
To find out more about Third Eye Journey and his work, visit www.thirdeyejourney.org