About the Collection

The story of how this Collection came to life……Frank Sinatra’s granddaughter Amanda Erlinger (herself an accomplished artist and photographer) began physically archiving the hundreds of photographs in the Sinatra Enterprise collection; and those in her Grandmother’s collection. There was no order, just a bunch of file folders and envelopes. Slowly over the years, she started to scan the collection for archival purposes, to preserve them. She also asked her grandmother Nancy Sr., Frank’s first wife, about the history of the photos. After that, her grandmother also started to look at her photo collections.

“As time went on, you start to ask other family members questions about the pictures.” Amanda said. She would ask her grandmother, “When was this from?” and her grandmother would show her other pictures. These were pictures that no one except her grandmother’s family had seen.

When Frank Sinatra Enterprises began to work on putting together a fine art book and photographic art program, they felt very lucky to have all the pictures in place, digitally, so they could look at them with relative ease – and see all the family archives and the private and personal collections. The most recent photographs came to light in the last year and a half. These images are some of the most special that have been uncovered thus far - pictures of Amanda’s mom, uncle and aunt as children, her grandmother and grandfather. Pictures that Frank and Nancy took of each other and their young and growing family.

These pictures were found in a number of vintage photo albums – leather covers with heavy black paper inside, like construction paper, with the photo corners. On each page were a bunch of pictures and the largest photo was no more than half the size of a 3x5 photograph. The smallest images were from the actual contact sheets made from 35mm film. “My grandma and grandpa would cut the tiny frames out of the contact sheets and put them in the albums. That was the result you would get from some of the cameras of that era.”  Aside from these albums, there are other rare images taken during Frank’s early years. Most are from before he had a family, when Nancy and Frank were dating and then engaged.

Amanda remembers the day she first saw the picture that her grandfather took of himself, reflected in the medicine cabinet mirror. That picture was taken in 1938, in his apartment when Frank was in his early 20s, just before he and Nancy got married.  Amanda said. “He took a selfie!” And her grandmother asked her, “What’s a selfie?” Also in the collection are hundreds of pictures that fans had sent Sinatra over the years. He kept every single one, all of them signed on the back to him.

Frank Sinatra was fascinated with photography. He wanted to learn all he could about it. Amanda was so excited to discover these photographs – she said it was like “utter gold to me, being that I am a photographer myself.”  To see these pictures that her grandparents took and developed themselves, in a darkroom they had in their Hoboken, NJ apartment on Garden Street was a moment that Amanda will never forget.

“It’s emotional, seeing these things for the first time. It must have been a wonderful time in his life. I often wonder if he knew what was in store? These images are the beginning, and I was lucky enough to hold them in my hands, and now we are sharing them.”

Experimenting with photography and learning how to use a camera, learning how they worked, was something Sinatra enjoyed. He was always trying to figure out how to make a picture better, developing the prints in various ways in the darkroom to see the different textures and images he could bring out.

When Frank was on tour for the first time, with the Hoboken Four and Major Bowes – sort of like what today’s American Idol is - he and Nancy would take pictures of themselves to send to each other. It’s like we do now, and send with our cell phones. But they did it through the mail, like sending a love letter to someone you missed.

Once he started touring, beginning with the Hoboken Four, it was a steady climb of progress and success and it never stopped. Amanda said when her grandmother had an opportunity to take pictures of her grandfather, it was like she was documenting something that would be important, documenting their love life and being supportive of her boyfriend, fiancé, and then her husband. Making sure someone is there with a camera, like we do today when someone is starting out in music, a film, or any career for that matter. They were so young and always together. As their family grew, it became more difficult for Nancy to go on tour with him.

Inspired by the original family archive we have collaborated with Frank Sinatra Enterprises to bring their historic collection of photos along with images from the Capitol Records and Warner Bros. Records archives as well as images from other notable photographers such as Terry O’Neill and Milton Greene.
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