In her new publication, Waterviews, local photographer Fran Zak reveals that beauty and artistic inspiration can be found in the most unexpected of places.

by Erin Coughlin


For some artists, inspiration can be both planned and spontaneous. They can travel to different countries all over the world – or, as is evident in local photographer Fran Zak's new book, Waterviews, the best and most beautiful artistic inspiration can even exist in your own undiscovered backyard.

"The idea can arrive, unexpected, even uninvited at the most unlikely times in the most unlikely circumstances," Zak said. "I have a poet friend in Stony Brook, Ron Overton, and I remember him telling me that he always keeps a pad of paper in his car next to him, so if he's driving somewhere, and he gets an idea for a poem, he can pull over and write it down. The creative process is like that."

After 18 years of teaching at Stony Brook University, Zak has dedicated herself towards persuing a passion for oil painting and photography. She works in every artists' ideal workspace: a bedroom that has been transformed into a bright, large and uncluttered open studio where her finished paintings cover the walls and her works in progress are held up on a variety of sturdy standing easles. The layout allows her to have easy access to all of her paints, brushes, computers, printers and camera equipment.

"It's a happy place where I love to spend most of every day," Zak said.

The rest of her house is also decorated with other pieces of her own art work, as well as that of her first artistic influence – her mother.

"I would say that my mother was the first influence on my work," Zak said. "She had a good eye for design, color, and composition. She started painting in an adult education class in her 60's and discovered she had talent."

Inspired by her partner, Robert DeMaria, a local novelist and owner of  Vineyard Press, she decided that after spending the past five years photographing her favorite parks and beaches along the North Shore, it was time to create her own book. Her most recent publication includes non altered photographic images of such local highlights as West Meadow Beach, Cedar Beach and Scott's Cove. Each photograph is accompanied by either a poem or a brief description of the subject matter and the area's inhabitants- including everything from local fisherman in search of carp to sunbathing pet iguanas.

Another strong influence on her painting and photography is that of the work of  plein air painters Doug Reina, Jim Molloy and Eileen Sanger, local artists who often show their own work at Gallery North.

"I've watched them paint outdoors, standing, and it's impressive – the way they can instantly frame a landscape in their minds and capture it on canvas so quickly," she said.

Zak is currently working on finishing her second book for Vineyard Press's art series, which features photographs of Deia, Mallorca, Spain, where she spends the summers with her partner. She also plans on creating a third book, which will strictly focus on the Port Jefferson area.

"I just do what I do and keep on doing it, no matter where I am," she said.

Zak will be doing a presentation and signing at the Port Jefferson Library at an unknown date in the spring. You can look at her art work or order a copy of Waterviews by visiting www.zakstudios.net.



by Robert DeMaria

There are many things about Port Jefferson that are not generally known. For instance, some years ago, a group of writers gathered once a week at a place called The Nine Doors. It was a weekly poker club. To be a member, you had to have published at least one book. Some of our members were important celebrities. We had a private room with the decor of an old Western saloon. A reporter from the New York Times sat in on one session and wrote a long article about the group. When our location was revealed, we had to change to another venue. The club continued for eighteen years, and only gave up after several members passed away.

Another little known fact is that about twelve years ago, a publishing company was established in Port Jefferson. It has published about sixty titles, some of them by well known writers here and in Europe. One of the local artists published by The Vineyard Press is Fran Zak. She has created three magnificent art books about colorful locations, each a treasury of more than eighty photographs:

1) WATERVIEWS: From West Meadow Beach to Mt. Sinai Harbor
2) DEIA: Paradise for Artists (Deia is a beautiful village on the island of Mallorca, Spain, in the Mediterranean).
3) PORT JEFFERSON: Portrait of a Village.

Her latest book of photos and commentary on Port Jefferson, has just been published. It is close to home, since she has lived in Port Jefferson for more than thirty years. She explains her goal in these books as follows: “I hope to capture the feeling of a place; its heart and soul through everyday things, such as houses, gardens, boats on the docks and people on park benches. Little things mean a lot.”

Fran has created a wonderful portrait of Port Jefferson, from the harbor to Theatre Three. Local people will recognize the feeling she has captured. Tourists will be impressed by a village that has preserved its history and charm. It’s hard to find this anymore. Perhaps that is why so many visitors come here. This colorful book should make the perfect gift for the holidays or any season.