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Art & Life with Franco Valentini

Today we’d like to introduce you to Franco Valentini.

Franco please kick things off for us telling us a story of a unique experience you had in your life.  
-First flight on Hot-Air Balloon-

Several years ago, my good colleague and friend John invited me to fly on his hot-air balloon (or Montgolfier as called in Europe). I have been flying airplanes and helicopters quite a bit but never had the opportunity to enjoy this type of flight. Very excited for the new experience, the day of the flight I got up early in the morning and drove to John’s house at 6.00AM as requested. John and Rod, another good friends and colleague, were already working around the balloon that was deflated and flat on the front yard grass with the canister already attached. The hot-air balloon envelope was red, blue, and white stripes. The only color for a 100% American like John. When John saw me, he shouted: the coffee is on that table if you want a cup, then come here because we need your help. I took my cup of coffee, and after a couple of sips, I went to them . John asked to tilt the canister in order to have the burner horizontal. Then he entered the garage and came out with a big fan already connected to the wall plug through a long extension cable. He put the fan just behind the canister and turned it on. Then he said: keep the mouth of the balloon envelop open I am going to turn on the burner to get hot air into the balloon to inflate. Several minutes after, the balloon started to inflate and started to lift up. Then John said: we do not need the fan anymore. I am going to take it away. He shut down the burner and asked to put the canister vertical so the hot air from the burner could continue to inflate the envelope that was rising vertically now. After he put the fan back in the garage, he turned the burner on again, and after few additional minutes, the balloon started to lift up, sending a message…I am ready to fly. John ordered me and Rod to jump into the canister, then he jumped in too and started to control the timing of the burner. On and off about every three/four minutes to avoid to heat up the envelope too much.

Like magic the balloon started to take altitude slowly — 10, 15, 50 and then 100, 150 feet above the ground. John looked at me and asked; what do you think Franco?. It is great, I replied. There is no wind, but we are moving, I guess, southeast. Correct, he answered. The balloon moves because the wind and we are in the wind without feeling the effect of it. The balloon continued to climb, and I was fascinated by the panorama of the desert and the nearby Lake Pleasant. Since it was springtime and early in the morning, the air was clear, and the visibility perfect up to more than 10, 15 miles. Hey, there is a truck down below in the desert following us, I said to John. This is my friend Gary, he replied. He has to recover us, including the balloon at the and of our flight. We can change direction utilizing different wind currents at different level of altitude, but unlikely we will be able to come back to our starting point. Got it, I replied. We continued to climb and all of a sudden John noticed that the balloon was not moving in any direction because we had no wind and were sitting just about 200 feet over one of the high voltage power line. I do not like it he said, let’s climb more to find a current that will take us away from this situation. He turned the burner on longer checking the temperature of the envelope on an instrument attached to one of the canister rods and he let the balloon climb another 100 feet. Rod looking down said to him: Hey, we are still on the vertical of the power line. No problem replied John with a calm voice, let’s go down a little, and for sure there will be a breeze taking us out of this area. We descended about 50 feet, and the situation did not change. Trusting in John expertise, I did not worry much and continued to admire the desert from above and taking photos. All of a sudden I heard John yelling: Damn, I forgot to install completely full propane tanks because this flight was supposed to be short and I did not expect to climb up and down so many times. Let’s burn the last propane left and climb as high we can. Hopefully, we can be out of this power line under us. He started to keep the burner opened for a longer period of time, and the balloon started to climb 100, 150, 200 feet until we run out of propane and the burner shut down completely. No wind helping us and we were still over the power line even if it was well below us. Then the balloon initiated to descend slowly as the air in the envelope started to get cold. Rod and John started to argue about the situation. We were risking to be electrified and barbecued. I did not pay attention to their arguing. I was just looking down and realized that the situation was critical. I started to worry without saying anything. In my mind, I was asking myself for whatever reason I had to finish my existence this way, or to use a more appropriated word, to be electrocuted. The power line was getting closer and closer when like a miracle, I noticed that the cables of the power line were a little left in respect to us and the distance was increasing even if very slowly. Hey, John look, I exclaimed. We are moving a little, and hopefully, in our way down, we will pass on the left side of the power line without touching any power cable.

John and Rod looked outside and shouted; Yeah! There is a weak wind saving us. The sun is warming the ground now and creates air draft. Let’s hope this wind is enough to clear us from the power line. At that’s what happened. All three of us stared for more than a minute at the power line cables at one side of the balloon. We went down without touching any power line cable.

As we continued to descend the breeze increased and the balloon started to pick up speed. John looked at me, Rod and said; now we have to work to stop this damn beast. When we hit the ground, the balloon will continue to travel on the ground at the same speed as the wind. The canister with us on board will hit the ground, and it will tilt horizontally pulled by the balloon that will act like a sail. Until we will not be able to stop the balloon, it will hit whatever it will encounter in the traveling direction. Bushes, barrel cactus and the more dangerous big sahuaros. He did not finish the sentence that we found our self with the canister horizontal, sliding on the desert ground and hitting whatever was in front of us. Rod yelled: watch that big sahuaro! Too late said, John. Ouch! A spine is already in my arm. And you, Franco, look at that barrel cactus on the right. We are going to hit it. Then he shouted: try to grab the rope that is flipping on your left. It is the emergency opening of the envelope. If you can pull it, the envelope will deflate immediately, and we will stop this insane rodeo. I tried my best to grab the rope swinging in any direction. Finally, I was able to get it and pulled it. The balloon stopped almost immediately just a few seconds before a big giant sahuaro was going to stop our sliding abruptly. We looked at each other eyes and started laughing. Gary arrived with the truck just a little later, and we started quickly to recover the balloon and to load it on the truck. The canister looked pretty damaged, but it could be repaired. We had a few scratches, but at the end, everybody was happy how this adventure ended up. John looked at me, Rod and Gary and said. We have been lucky; we need to celebrate. What about a good barbecue at my house?

Can you give our readers some background on your art?
Since young, I have been attracted by photography. I got my first camera as a gift from my grandfather at the age of 8. I cannot remember how many thousand photos I took with that little wonder, and how many times I have been punished by my mother for disappearing from home searching for interesting subjects to shot with my lens.

Talking of subjects, I have been attracted since young by airplanes. I guess it is in my DNA. I can say that I always had a viral passion for them. Quite strange and without any planning, when I grew up, I ended up working for a world leader company producing avionic equipments. Also, since young, I have been in love with wildlife and landscape. I have been lucky to have a job that allowed me to travel the world and quench my thirst for subjects I love so much. In addition to all of the above, I am in love with speed and any man-made machine that can give a pure adrenaline shot. For years I have been taking photos during motorcycle racing here in the USA and abroad. So, in short, my art is inspired by what I love. This should be the main driving force for any artist. Regardless if an artist area is painting, sculpturing or photography, his/her creation should convey this message to the public: that’s what I like, and this how I see it and I like you to see it this way. Particularly, regarding my photos, this is what people should know. The subject of my photos are a way to document the world around us, magically freezing a moment of our life that will never come back. For me, a photo is like stopping the time. A moment that our mind may have forgotten after many years. But looking at any photo after 10, 15, 20 years, memories resurface in our mind. And we will revive that moment. Virtually going back in time.

What would you recommend to an artist new to the city, or to art, in terms of meeting and connecting with other artists and creatives?
It is true, being an artist can be lonely. But as a photographer, being lonely may be a way to enjoy more the surrounding. Usually, I try to avoid crowded areas. It is very disturbing when taking photos of landscapes and even more when taking photos of wildlife. With few exceptions of National Parks where animals are used to tourists, wildlife stays out of crowd and noise.

But I like to have some friendly people with me during my excursions. Having company is always good. I can show my technique, explain why and how I take any particular photo, and in addition, it is safer. When taking photos of wildlife, it can be dangerous being totally alone in the wild.

Regarding the question of how to connect with other artists, it is not difficult. My advice is to join a club or any artist league in the area. Personally, I am part of Scottsdale Artists League and Arizona Art Alliance. It is a way to be connected and exchange ideas.
More, if people want to be connected with me and learn more about my photography, they can ask to participate in my training class (The magic of Photography, quick tour on how to improve).

What’s the best way for someone to check out your work and provide support?
The answer is easy and difficult at the same time.

I participate regularly to Exhibition or Art Shows organized by Scottsdale Artists League and Arizona Art Alliance.

These are venues where my photos can be seen. Occasionally I have participated to shows organized by Sedona Art Center and West Art Council.

My personal web site, Franco’s Sports Photography, where I had many of my photos taken during sports events and travels around the world is presently down because the same web address has been utilized by someone else. Someone who does not take Sports Photography. I have to find a new way to reopen my web site with a new address that identifies myself.

Anyway, I have a site on Fine Art of America under my name. There, people can look at a few of my photos.

My Facebook is open to few people and friends. However, I will be glad and open to connect with people really interested to know more about me and my photography. And those people with a real interest in my work are the one who should boycott and complain against the person who utilized my original email address for showing not Sports Photography related as my original web address did. This, in addition to visiting shows where I will exhibit, would be a real way to support my work.

Contact Info:

  • Address: 7153 W. Crystal Rd. Glendale AZ, 85308
  • Phone: 623-523-7825
  • Email:
  • Facebook: Franco Valentini
  • Other:

Getting in touch: VoyagePhoenix is built on recommendations from the community; it’s how we uncover hidden gems, so if you know someone who deserves recognition, please let us know here.


  1. Maria Nadeau

    July 2, 2019 at 3:54 pm

    Great rendering of your interview, Franco! BRAVO!

    • Steve Wininger

      July 6, 2019 at 2:08 am

      Wow! well done and a very interesting read. Thank you for sharing. Photographs are fantastic!!

  2. Bela

    October 22, 2019 at 5:32 am

    Absolutely gorgeous!
    BTW, I too have an article in Voyage Phoenix.

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