World-renowned photographer Bill Frakes visits UNL for workshop

Courtesy photo of Bill Frakes from Feb. 20, 2011 DN story titled "World-renowned photographer Bill Frakes visits UNL for workshop." 

Visiting University of Nebraska-Lincoln professor and professional photojournalist Bill Frakes will no longer teach classes at the university amid a Title IX investigation.

The National Press Photographers Association released an article yesterday that detailed some aspects of the allegations against Frakes. In the story, NPPA editor Tom Burton reported the university will be taking action in light of these complaints.

The university issued a statement via email to the National Press Photographers Association concerning Frakes, saying his appointment was planned to run through the upcoming semester.

Calla Kessler, a senior journalism major, recently came forward about the inappropriate interactions with Frakes while opening up to a private journalism Facebook group. In her post, Kessler noted how through working with Frakes in many settings, she was uncomfortable with his speech toward other women, including female students.

Kessler has known Frakes since spring 2016. She worked with him countless times the following summer and school year. Kessler said on Facebook that he hires female assistants regularly, but he also helped her with some editing techniques. Outside of school, she went on assignment with him for ESPN twice.

Frakes and Kessler worked together on the College of Journalism and Mass Communication’s recent award-winning project focusing on Whiteclay, Nebraska.

In filing a Title IX complaint, Kessler said she compiled information from numerous sources and submitted it for evidence in the investigation. She said “many” have privately shared their stories, but she did not know of anyone who would be willing to come forward publicly.

“I’m not going to go into great detail about all my grievances, but let's just say it was enough to inspire me and a few other brave students to reach out to our administration about him,” Kessler wrote in her Facebook post. “Because I believe he is a threat to young photogs (sic), esp (sic) women."

But what’s also worried Kessler is Frakes’ big name in the photojournalism industry.

According to his personal website, Frakes’ award-winning work has appeared in “virtually every major general interest publication in the world” and has been featured on hundreds of websites and most major television networks. He is also on the masthead of Sports Illustrated and contributes to ESPN.

“He plays the power card frequently,” Kessler wrote in her post. “Saying things about his various awards and recognitions and how he ‘knows every editor in New York and can end your career instantly.’”

Kessler said this power card phenomenon is common in the photojournalism industry. After posting on Facebook, she said she has received “overwhelming amounts of support.”

Kessler told the NPPA she hopes this incident will open conversations for people who have experienced situations similar to hers.

“I wanted to set a precedent that you shouldn't be silenced out of fear and that you can come forward and not only be listened to, but also believed,” she said.

Frakes told the NPPA he would not comment in order to honor the confidentiality of the hearing process.

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