Tim Snider and Franz Szony
A fashion photographer and a musician each began their careers in Reno, moved to bigger ponds, and are coming back to showcase their work during Artown this summer. The RN&R got on the horn with each of them to find out what it’s like to leave home in search of broader horizons.Szony
Calling from the Brewery Art Colony—a huge, happening, residential studio complex in downtown Los Angeles—Franz Szony traces the arc of his career, punctuating his story with a long list of people who encouraged him along the way.
The first is Kathy Sedarquist, who was his after-school art teacher at the Namaste Art Center when he was 7. She let him draw whatever he wanted. “The class would be drawing bears, and I'd be drawing showgirls or whatever, and she'd be OK with that.”
His early interest in beauty and glamour turned out to be lifelong passions.
After he graduated from Reno High, he moved to San Francisco and took college classes in figure drawing, fashion design, and photography. He then returned to Reno.
“It's a great place for an artist,” said Szony, who in 2009 illustrated the RN&R's Biggest Little Best of Northern Nevada readers poll. “It's so beautiful, the sunsets, as cliché as it might sound, as corny as it sounds, that stuff actually inspires artistry.”
Inspired he was. He taught himself more and more about digital photography, showing his work in bars such as Green Room, 5 Star, and Se7en Teahouse and Bar. He gratefully remembers each and every bar owner for the opportunities.
Szony moved to Los Angeles in 2013, searching for a place on the ladder of the thriving—and deeper pocketed—fashion and photography industries.
“In Los Angeles, it's everything's times 10,” he said. “Every single day, I try to reach out to a new person. Celebrities, makeup artists, if I see an interesting name in a magazine, I'll write it down. I make a lot of cold calls.”
Szony makes both fine art and commercial photographs, specializing in glittery, lavisher-than-life portraits and figure illustrations that bend gender, pile on glamour, revel in drag here and there, and teeter between reality and fantasy, looking at once like drawings and photos. (They're photos, often heavily retouched, but don't be too sure of first instincts; sometimes what looks like a color filter is actually makeup on a model.) To boot, his images can be opulently meta-retro. One picture can refer to five or six time periods at once—say Ancient Greek, Art Deco, Renaissance, Rococo, and 1950s pin-up, with a little Nefertiti flourish.
Szony made the poster image for this year's Artown, in which the Titan goddess Mnemosyne morphs with a modern showgirl, skin and satin gown glowing with a coppery shimmer.
He'll exhibit some new photos—“portraits, kind of photographic busts,” he calls them—at Sierra Arts Gallery throughout July, and offer a limited edition of a special version of the Artown poster. This version includes some partially obscured nude figures that didn't make it onto the publicly distributed poster.
Although Szony's pleased he found the market he was looking for in Los Angeles, he said, “Coming back to Reno will be nice. I feel like in small towns, you have a really solid family of people that have kind of watched you grow and watched your work change.”Snider
At around age 12, Tim Snider started asking his music teachers if they could help him mix a little jazz, punk and rock 'n' roll into the classical violin sound they were training him to perfect.
The way he remembers it, “They were like, 'no.'”
He'd been playing since age 3, when he was inspired by an Itzhak Perlman performance on Sesame Street. He was committed to his craft, but his desire to fuse with new styles ran deep, and he wasn't having “no” for an answer.
“I ended up quitting classical music. I taught myself guitar and started playing rock 'n' roll and punk rock,” Snider said, calling from Portland, Oregon.
After graduating from Reno High, he and his best friend, guitarist Milton Merlos, promptly went to live in Spain and study Flamenco. They returned in 2002 and started Sol'Jibe, a Latin-influenced act one source described as sounding like “Dave Matthews meets the Afro-Cuban All Stars.” Sol'Jibe released three albums, and eventually the guys went their separate ways.
In 2011, Snider toured both coasts, searching for a new home base with a large enough audience to support his career long-term. “I went to see where people would value what I have to offer,” he said.
“I always had a great response in Portland,” he said. He once played an open mic at a bar there called Plew's Brews, which led to a gig, which led to playing on an album, which led to more studio work, which led to meeting a lot of great players.
“One of the things I like about Portland, one of the reasons I'm here, is there are so many creative musicians here.” Consequently, he added, audiences are open to new or experimental sounds, which is perfect for Snider, as his music isn't easy to categorize. In fact, he said, he's had record executives come up to him after shows wanting to talk, but ultimately deciding his sound wasn't classifiable enough to market. A given set might include threads of world, jazz, funk or classical—sometimes all of those at once. Often, a song is based on sampled and looped electric violin sounds. One thing audiences can count on is a healthy dose of improvisation. That's important to Snider, and he credits some of his ability to wing it on stage to decades of practice—and to those early years of classical music lessons.
Snider said, “One of the things I loved about Reno, for as small as Reno is, the amount of talent per capita, it's maybe more than any other city. Even though it was a small pond, there were opportunities for me to excel in whatever way I wanted to.”
He credits the University of Nevada, Reno's music department, where he studied jazz for a year and which his great grandfather, Theodore Post, helped establish. He also credits some of his early education to “casino bands, session players and older guys who stick around.”
“When I was in high school,” he added, “I'd put my violin on my back and see whoever I could go see. I said I was there to play. I'd sneak in whenever I could. I remember sometimes running into my teachers.”
That was awkward, but he did end up sitting in on stage a few times as a result.
“As a young kid, you're kind of soaking it all up. I'm thankful for all those things Reno had to offer,” he said.