In 1951, civil war in Colombia forced Franco and his family to move from rural Versalles to the city of Cali. The built-up urban centre and changing social conditions following the war made a lasting impression on him: ‘My sudden encounter with the city has marked my life,’ he said in his later years.
During the 1970s, Cali’s rapid industrialisation and modernisation became a source of inspiration for artists and intellectuals like Franco. With City Portrait he set out to capture the energy of the youthful scene of the time. Franco also extended the project to include images from other cities he had visited, including New York, drawing parallels between Cali and these other locations. Yet ultimately City Portrait ended by documenting a social life that was fading fast, as the violence surrounding Cali’s drug cartels intensified during the 1980s.
Franco also travelled across Latin America in search of scenes he felt were typical of this continent. Bound features photographs he took of wrapped goods in open-air markets located in Cali and Pasto, Colombia; Lima, Peru; and Quito, Ecuador; among others. To Franco, these bundles represented the informal commerce that many people in the region depend on for economic survival. He saw them as symbols of confinement and isolation – in contrast to the bustle of inner-city life.