Cricchio, Frank Edward (1933–2021)


By: Cynthia Marshall Devlin

Type: Biography

Published: July 7, 2022

Updated: July 7, 2022


Frank Edward Cricchio, world-renowned Texas photographer, was born on October 18, 1933, in Port Arthur, Texas, to parents Joe Cricchio and Annette (Campise) Cricchio. Cricchio’s grandfather, Francesco “Frank” Cricchio, came to America from Palermo, Sicily, Italy, in 1904 to the port of New Orleans and later settled in Port Arthur where he worked for Texaco. His grandson’s passion for photography commenced at the age of eleven, and his serious studies began at age fourteen. The family saved money to buy his first professional camera. The 1950 federal census listed Cricchio’s father as the owner of a grocery, where young Frank worked as a delivery boy. He graduated from Thomas Jefferson High School in Port Arthur in 1952. In 1953 and 1954 he attended the University of Texas at Austin, where he served as a photographer in the Air Force ROTC, but he returned to the area of his home to study at Lamar State College of Technology (presently Lamar University) in Beaumont. He married Marie Ann Jennusa on October 30, 1955, and eventually they had five children. Cricchio graduated with a B.B.A. in business statistics from Lamar State College in 1957. After a brief time working for Watkins Studio, he joined Sears Roebuck and Company and prepared layouts and statistical projections before he opened his first studio in 1958.

Cricchio dedicated a lifetime pursuing perfection as an innovator of photographic techniques. In 1964 Cricchio, with assistance from college student Wayne Rogers, produced the first color photo appearing in the Port Arthur News. In 1965 he partnered with Bart Bragg who stated that “Frank was a master at lighting and posing.” The two partners took photos at several high school football games for the Port Arthur News, and they hustled to the darkroom and rushed the prints to the newspaper. By 1967 the Photographic Society of America assessed Cricchio as “one of the Top Ten Pictorial Color Print Exhibitors in the world.” With more than 500 color prints accepted for exhibit in international photography salons, he also received top rankings resulting in fifty-six medals. As a judge and jury chairman for the Professional Photographers of America beginning in 1968, he taught his creative methods in all fifty states in America and in many countries across the world thanks to financial support from his consultancy with Eastman Kodak beginning in the 1970s. In another career enhancement, he assisted Fuji Photo Film, Inc. (later Fujifilm Manufacturing U.S.A., Inc.) by testing new films. He married Beatrice Jinez in 1970; they divorced in 1994. 

Cricchio’s own words best described his approach to his craft:

Even though a photograph contains all the elements of art, such as line, color, shape, texture, and form, and these elements are arranged in such a fashion that they present a center of interest, a portrait is not necessarily created unless the image contains equivalence. For a photograph to become a portrait it must involve the viewer through emotional communication. Without this a photograph is just a photograph, a clinical exercise.

Cricchio innately realized that not every person could pick up a camera and take photos that mirrored “utopian” reflections of the subject. He taught numerous students throughout his life and founded the Texas School of Professional Photography. New tools and techniques underpinned his craft; however, the goal remained—reaching the standard of fine art. By 1998 he became the sole photographer to receive more than 1,000 merits issued by the Professional Photographers of America. He was a member of the very exclusive Cameracraftsmen of America, which limited its membership to forty worldwide.

Various organizations paid tribute to Cricchio with numerous accolades. He held an honorary Master of Photography degree from the Mexico Society of Professional Photographers and a Photographic Craftsman degree. He received honorary titles acknowledging his photographic expertise in Japan, Puerto Rico, and the United Kingdom. Cricchio served as president of the Professional Photographers Guild of Houston (1972), Texas Professional Photographers Association (1975), and Professional Photographers of America (1999–2004). He also served as the chairman of the board of the American Society of Photographers and served as a long-term member of the Rotary Club of Port Arthur. In 2004 Cricchio received a photo award from the International Photographic Council, a non-governmental organization of the United Nations. He was given the American Society of Photographers Educational Award in 2005. In 2008 the Professional Photographers of America honored him with a lifetime achievement award. He was the inaugural recipient of the Texas Professional Photographer’s Association Star of Texas Lifetime Achievement Award in 2013; the honor was later renamed the Frank Cricchio Star of Texas Lifetime Achievement Award. During his long career he routinely rose most mornings at 4:00 a.m. to study his craft for two hours, and his many honors reflected his compelling work ethic.   

Bart Bragg took over the studio in 2002 after a long business relationship with his friend and partner. Toward the end of his life, Cricchio joined a coffee klatch that included six area men from a variety of professions ranging from oil refinery workers to small business owners. For three years before the COVID-19 lockdown in March 2020 they met at the Medical Center of Southeast Texas in Port Arthur almost daily for breakfast and lively conversations that covered a range of topics. Cricchio regaled the informal group with his philosophy concerning his craft, and he described tales of travel, his views on ancient Roman and Greek history, and his overall worldview. He emphasized attention to detail as crucial for a perfect photograph, and he emphasized that the process applied to all human endeavors.

While in hospice care on July 15, 2021, Cricchio received the American Society of Photographers International Award for his decades of work around the world. His photographs continued to inspire new photographers. Cricchio’s works reached the level of fine art. According to coffee klatch member Robert Marshall, one of Cricchio’s favorite photographs was his portrait of the Lady in the Red Hat. Described as a caring man, Cricchio, who specialized in portraits, eased the tensions of thousands of Port Arthur school children he photographed for annuals and numerous other purposes across his long career. He shared his talents with many photography students and gave away signed books and memorabilia toward the end of his life. Frank Edward Cricchio died at the age of eighty-eight in Port Arthur on December 23, 2021. Saint Charles Church’s Knights of Columbus Hall in Nederland, Texas, held services for the master photographer on January 4, 2022.

Cameracraftsmen of America. 3rd vol. (Murray, Utah: Cameracraftsmen of America, 1995). “Frank Cricchio,” Notable People Hall of Fame, Museum of the Gulf Coast (https://www.museumofthegulfcoast.org/frank-cricchio), accessed June 30, 2022. “Frank Cricchio, October 18, 1933–December 23. 2021,”  Melancon’s Funeral Home (https://www.melancons.org/obituaries/Frank-Cricchio/#!/Obituary), accessed June 30, 2022. “Frank Edward Cricchio,” Find A Grave Memorial (https://www.findagrave.com/memorial/235422865/frank-edward-cricchio), accessed June 30, 2022. Bill Hedrick, “The Life and Times of Frank Cricchio,” The Photographer Magazine, March 4, 2022 (https://thephotographeronline.com/tppa/the-life-and-times-of-frank-cricchio/), accessed June 30, 2022. Robert Marshall, Telephone interview by author, January 25, 2022. Port Arthur News, December 28, 29, 2021. Tan Radford, “Award winning Port Arthur photographer Frank Cricchio honored for international work,” July 15, 2021, FOX4beaumont.com (https://fox4beaumont.com/news/award-winning-port-arthur-photographer-frank-cricchio-honored-for-international-work), accessed June 30, 2022.

The following, adapted from the Chicago Manual of Style, 15th edition, is the preferred citation for this entry.

Cynthia Marshall Devlin, “Cricchio, Frank Edward,” Handbook of Texas Online, accessed August 18, 2022, https://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/entries/cricchio-frank-edward.

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July 7, 2022
July 7, 2022