New York's Morrison Hotel Gallery is exhibiting never before seen pictures from the Sinatra family archives

By Alex Heigl
Updated March 02, 2015 02:00 PM
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Courtesy Sinatra Family Archive

Frank Sinatra’s photography isn’t the best-known aspect of his life, but it was an integral part of it. And a new photo exhibit at New York’s Morrison Hotel Gallery aims to show the world that side of Sinatra, on the centennial anniversary of the legend’s birth year.

The Sinatra Experience presents never-before-seen photographs from the Sinatra family, Capitol Records and Warner Bros. Records archives, as well as photos from other photographers like Terry O’Neill. PEOPLE has some of those photos here and spoke with Sinatra’s daughter Nancy and granddaughter Amanda about the project.

“There was always a camera,” Nancy, 74, tells PEOPLE of growing up with Frank. “I don’t ever remember him without a camera. He actually even did a professional layout for LIFE magazine at some point. He photographed the Ali-Frazier fight.”

I ask Nancy and Amanda how they sourced the photos for the exhibit and they both start laughing. “It was a long process,” Amanda says. “A couple of years ago, I was sitting and talking with mom, and I just said, ‘There has to be more [material] than what we’ve seen.’ And she said, ‘Well, you should call Grandma.'”

“So that’s what I did. I went over to my grandma’s house, and when I got there, she said, ‘Hey, I put these photo albums out for you,'” and sure enough, there were these old, beautiful, vintage photo albums with just thousands of photos from her whole life with my grandpa. And we didn’t even know they’d existed.”

“Frank’s life is a whole century of American history,” Nancy says. “And in his life in those early photos, you can see sort of what America was like. And I think that’s a big part of all this; he used to say that he was ‘American first, baritone second.'”

“He always had this innate sense of style,” Amanda says. “That’s one of the things my grandmother said looking back at these photos. He was always wearing a cute hat or pocket square or a flower in his lapel. Even when he was visiting my grandmother in Jersey City, and just wandering around town with his ukulele, he’d be well-dressed.”

Nancy says she’s devoting this year to finishing the photo work, but mentions that she’s intent on “getting back to my own life” in 2016. She released an album of previously unreleased material, Shifting Gears in 2013, and her iconic boots (“I’m wearing a lot fewer miniskirts and go-go boots these days,” she jokes) and her platinum record for “These Boots Are Made for Walkin'” are part of the Sinatra: An American Icon exhibit put together by the Grammy Museum and the New York Public Library.

The Sinatra Experience runs Mar. 6-25 at the Morrison Hotel Gallery’s SoHo location.