Born in 1942 in Versalles, Colombia. Died in 2006 in Cali, Colombia.
Fernell Franco moved with his family to Cali in 1951. There, he worked in the Arte Italia photography studio and, in 1968, joined the advertising agency Nicholls Publicidad. In 1972, he became head of the photography department of the magazine Cromos in Bogotá and later worked as a photojournalist for the newspapers Occidente and El País (Cali), while also contributing to the magazines Cromos and Diners, among others. In 1972, he held his first exhibition at the Galería Ciudad Solar in Cali. His series about prostitution in Buenaventura, entitled Prostitutas, was the first of many produced over the course of his career, including Amarrados, Interiores, Billares, Demoliciones, and Retratos de ciudad.
“The original series (Prostitutas) was composed of sixteen images resulting from an almost ethnographic process whereby Franco immersed himself in the tropical, salsera culture of the port town of Buenaventura. The photographs on display are charged with a ‘gothic-tropical’ aesthetic that was also present in the films made in Cali in the 1970s and 1980s. Fernell Franco brings out the shadows and that black deterioration which, according to him, Buenaventura exuded. This obscurity, achieved in the shots and intensified in the darkroom, would be a sign of disappearance and oblivion all through his work. The photographic process therefore becomes an allegory through which to speak of the context portrayed, a vanishing town, a mutant city which, as he himself said, is the victim of ‘a violence comparable to that facing men.’”—María Wills, in Cámara ardiente: Prostitutas de Fernell Franco (2011)