Plenty of Bones to pick

Rhode Island School of Design freshman Eliza Von Cerneck finds a quiet spot off to the side of the white-walled display room that is part of the Edna Lawrence Nature Lab in RISD’s Waterman Building.

On this day, the illustration major works on drawings of human joints and skull detail alone in the “bone room.” On rolling stands, in glass cases, and on wall and table displays the remains of a variety of animals large and small can be found.

According to Betsy Sara Ruppa, the lab coordinator for the Nature Lab, the bones of reptiles, primates, dogs and dolphins are real, but the human skeletons, sometimes posed as ballerinas, or shot putters for a student project, are replicas.

Students of all grades and all of the school’s departments use the bones and skeletons as reference in drawing, painting, sculpting or whatever artistic endeavor they choose. The Nature Lab provides students like Eliza a place to find and study shape, texture, patterns.

The bone room is where the skeletons of the past provide a future for the students of the present.

copyright 2015  Kris Craig / The Providence Journal / 2 Much Time design

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Bubble

Bubble FinalIf it makes you happy, it can’t be that bad — Sheryl Crow

I like soap bubbles and had just found a remnant from a kid-friendly gathering. Not missing a chance, I blew a froth of bubbles skyward. A half-inch stream jetted from the wand and separated neatly into shiny little globes floating gently upward … except for one.  It started drifting away with the others but stopped in mid-flight, its stall unbefitting a soap bubble. I found something to stand on and discovered the tiny sphere’s gossamer anchor: a slender thread of spider silk reaching from roof to deck. I grabbed a camera, a set of close-up tubes and a macro lens and started shooting.

This is a photograph of the bubble. If someone looked deep enough, they might find a metaphor for life and the fragility of our existence or maybe freedom thwarted by unforeseen circumstance. I won’t find that inside. It is just a photo of a bubble. It was a curious sight and fun for me to figure out a way to shoot it.

Professionally and personally, I advocate for taking photos of whatever makes you happy — yes, even instagram food pics.  I don’t always know why I am shooting someone or something, but if he/she/it moves me, even a little, I want to figure it out with my camera, deciding later if I am a genius or delusional for crawling, climbing, jumping to get at it and then working it to death.  In the end this photo may not have lived up to the effort of making it, but I’m satisfied — maybe not with the image but at least with the subject. Bubbles make me happy.

copyright 2015  Kris Craig / The Providence Journal / 2 Much Time design

Energy

Kris Column April 2015 - I have been doing this a long time, so why is it I still find myself standing in a light drizzle in front of AS220’s black box theater having an argument with the logical side of my brain?  I came here to see a group of young local artists who were putting on an event to showcase their various talents in painting, graphic and clothing design, video, photography and music. I glance in the door and my left brain starts flashing yellow “You don’t belong here” warning messages. This is a place for kids, young adults.  I counter with the need to energize creativity, to the applause of my right brain. While I argue in my head the rest of me lets the music that’s been leaking out to the sidewalk draw me in.  This isn’t about age. This is about energy. This is about curiosity, and the things that fuel life and career. I am here to observe and to explore, hoping to be wowed or at least a little inspired. There is potential here by virtue of the young, colorfully multi-ethnic, multi-societal crowd; a crowd that is so not like mine.  Small displays of artworks line two walls. There are racks with graphic T’s and morphing videos project on a cluster of dancers. Moving freely in the center of this kinetic universe is Ninya Prince, a young student artist pursuing video and fashion design and who loves to dance. Here he does so freely, unbridled, unrestrained.  The hip-hop grows out from the center of the room, fueled by his energy and that of the crowd moving like a human wave synchronized to the DJ’s beats. A chorus rises, drowning out the artist’s own version.  I feel energized watching people being people. I shoot photos because I feel I should, with the need to capture what I’m taking in and to pass that feeling on the best way I know how.  There are newer versions of me, more subtle with their moments, filling the gaps, taking in the glow, filming the scene with video cameras and lights held up high.  I am asked about my c

I have been doing this a long time, so why is it I still find myself standing in a light drizzle in front of AS220’s black box theater having an argument with the logical side of my brain?

I came here to see a group of young local artists who were putting on an event to showcase their various talents in painting, graphic and clothing design, video, photography and music. I glance in the door and my left brain starts flashing yellow “You don’t belong here” warning messages. This is a place for kids, young adults.

I counter with the need to energize creativity, to the applause of my right brain. While I argue in my head the rest of me lets the music that’s been leaking out to the sidewalk draw me in.

This isn’t about age. This is about energy. This is about curiosity, and the things that fuel life and career. I am here to observe and to explore, hoping to be wowed or at least a little inspired. There is potential here by virtue of the young, colorfully multi-ethnic, multi-societal crowd; a crowd that is so not like mine.

Small displays of artworks line two walls. There are racks with graphic T’s and morphing videos project on a cluster of dancers. Moving freely in the center of this kinetic universe is Ninya Prince, a young student artist pursuing video and fashion design and who loves to dance. Here he does so freely, unbridled, unrestrained.

The hip-hop grows out from the center of the room, fueled by his energy and that of the crowd moving like a human wave synchronized to the DJ’s beats. A chorus rises, drowning out the artist’s own version.

I feel energized watching people being people. I shoot photos because I feel I should, with the need to capture what I’m taking in and to pass that feeling on the best way I know how.

There are newer versions of me, more subtle with their moments, filling the gaps, taking in the glow, filming the scene with video cameras and lights held up high.

I am asked about my camera and shooting style by budding photographers with questions about techniques and the business. I answer them and hope they leave satisfied, maybe sent down a path they might not have walked before. Something new can do that. A word or two, a place. Energy comes in all forms.

But it is time for me to go.

It’s misty outside, but I don’t notice over the buzz in my head.

The right side of my brain mulls snippets of possible future art and video projects I want to make, something with a heavy beat and fluid motion — and the left logical side wonders how it could have been so wrong. I leave feeling ready to work in the real world again, taking in enough power from the room to recharge my creative battery for a few more weeks.

Energy. We absorb it, translate it, transform and transfer it.

They say it can’t be created or destroyed, but it’s so much more powerful when we trade it back and forth.

copyright 2015  Kris Craig / The Providence Journal / 2 Much Time design

Red Shoes

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‘Fashions fade, style is eternal.’ – Yves Saint Laurent

Ask me what StyleWeek Northeast is about and I’m hard pressed to come up with a simple answer. Of course, it’s about design, fashion, creativity, and yes, models. But there’s something about the venue that makes my heart beat a little faster. It’s all about “Style:” personal, artistic, professional and photographic. Fashion is fine, but style, that’s about distinction, individuality and confidence.
There’s no denying the fun of the catwalk, but it’s watching the watchers that’s the real photo treat. Guests arrive dressed to kill. StyleWeek attendees are given carte blanche to come as they are or as they want to be. They’re dolled up, tucked in, spit shined, coiffed and combed. The beautiful people, the fashion pros and fledglings, art and design leaders and their followers are laid out right there before me and my camera — served up on a very elegantly attired platter.
The legs and the ruby red Lucite wedge booties belong to StyleWeek Northeast Event director Toyin Omisore and were caught on the 10th anniversary of this winter’s show in Providence.

copyright 2015  Kris Craig / The Providence Journal / 2 Much Time design

Spontaneity

Spelunking I have a phone in my pocket, and like many others it has replaced a jumble of items I use on a daily basis: the GPS, Web browser, sketchbook, recorder, guitar amp, language books and even my flashlight. But with all it does, I still have hangups (pardon the pun) about using my phone as a camera. I’ve listened dumbfounded while friends rave about their camera phones and the photos they’ve taken when I know that their best phone camera is not even close to the quality I get with my worst point-and-shoot.

But, alas, when I climb down off my high horse, it is easier to see what everyone is really so happy about. It’s the spontaneity, the accessibility of having a camera, any camera right there to help capture life as you see it, when you see it. As a member of the photo-obsessed who has been carrying camera equipment as a body part over the vast majority of my existence, I sometimes forget how lucky I am to always have had artistic freedom of expression right at hand.

There are times when real life trumps photo life, and I was recently forced to leave my cameras behind while joining a friend to see SPELUNK II, an art and dance exhibit featuring local artists Carl Dimitri, Christine Kim, Mike Yefko and Carl Hirsh at Aurora, in Providence. With live music and a visual presentation in the background, patrons donned headlamps to explore the artworks in a darkened room. I was fascinated by how it all visually came together and how some visitors, like this young silhouetted couple, were enveloped in the kaleidoscopic scene. Caught without my camera, I did what many others now do every day, I called on my phone to satisfy my photo needs.

copyright 2015  Kris Craig / The Providence Journal / 2 Much Time design

The Rear View

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There’s a strange truth in the media; we all die an “award-winning journalist.”

And contest time, an honored tradition, is a seasonal ritual that rolls around at the end of every year. Journalists of all shapes and media sizes take stock of the work they’ve done. I don’t enter many contests anymore, but muscle memory compels me to revisit this rear-view habit.

In the news business, where the distance between today and yesterday could be a thousand miles, these “call for entries” make us pause the “now” to peek over our shoulder at the past year. I get a second chance to explore the reasons a particular image ran when another did not. A chance to ask what went right, what went wrong, or would I cover the event the same way again.

And then, there’s a moment when you’re looking at an image you’d forgotten about and reconnect, if only in memory, with the families or individual staring back at you.

The photo above is not a trophy winner. It’s 7-year-old Dounya Eskaf, of Lincoln, chasing down bubbles in front of a stalled Memorial Day color guard. It was just one subtle, sweet distraction from news coverage that never found a home in The Journal or its website.

When I look at a year’s work through a retrospective lens, what I do – what we do – isn’t about some contest, award or plaque, it’s about the faces in the photos. It’s about the experiences I’ve had over the past year and the people I’ve had the honor to meet, and even though I know most of those photos would never earn awards, they certainly feel like winners to me….

copyright 2015  Kris Craig / The Providence Journal / 2 Much Time design

What’s in a name?

Protest

I have just taken a photo of you. You were standing strong in front of a crowd of strangers and I listened as you spoke up for those without a voice.  Maybe I saw you standing hours in line looking for something to help yourself feel stronger.  I saw you laughing or crying, playing with your child, or celebrating life as only you can.  It doesn’t matter.  I approach and introduce myself.

“My name is Kris, and I work for The Providence Journal.”
Not the most articulate of opening lines, but here I am, standing in front of you with two or three cameras hanging from my neck or shoulder, a Providence Journal ID clipped in full view.  I make myself as obvious as possible in the hope you will feel at ease enough to answer my next question.

“May I get your name, please?”

I ask this almost every day, often more times than I can count.  Sometimes I get names, other times I don’t, as in this case.  When people ask me why I need their name, I tell them the truth.  Without a name to go with your face, you don’t exist, you aren’t real, you are just a possible truth, an unsigned review, an unnamed source, a media manifestation that in a world of Internet hoaxes and reality TV will give people one more cause to wonder, “Is this image true or staged?”

During interviews, a journalist wants a face to go with quotes to make the words grounded to the real world and not appearing as something pulled from the imagination.

A name gives a photo that same weight.  I want people to know that you are their neighbor, their friend, their unsung hero. And, like the rest of us, you have a name.

copyright 2014  Kris Craig / The Providence Journal / 2 Much Time design

Scenic Humor

Leaf recyle and dropoff in Barrington April 2014

A great landscape photograph – a scenic that truly works – takes a lot of time and effort. It is rarely just a pretty scene you come upon. It’s planning and patience, a balance of light and composition, and repeated failure until you get the version of an image that takes your breath away just as it did when you experienced it in real life.

True confession: I don’t get scenics. When I am standing on the mountain and seeing a heart-stopping site, the last thing I want to do is take a photo of it.

But when I do, (I am a photographer after all), I take the picture to remember how much I loved where I was. Scenics for most people are attempts to make a memory of a place, not art.

I like my landscapes slightly askew, awkward, images with a sprinkle of humor.

I want a person or a horse or maybe a monkey to walk into the frame. Traits that do not translate well in this photographic category.

The masters – the Ansel Adamses of the world – are all business and produce art that touches everyone. Me? I just want to have fun.

Exhibit A: A Barrington friend once best described her hometown life as living on another planet. I thought I found that realized in an image I made at the leaf dump along Route 114: The rotting yard debris made for an unreal surface, and the threatening dark clouds reflected in the brown water.

It all just worked for me, and I thought it was creepy and funny at the same time. …

copyright 2014 Kris Craig / The Providence Journal

I am Lucky

=== Imported from ATEX ===

I’m lucky I can run. It’s therapeutic, calming, relaxing. I was built for it – small frame, long legs. My skinny ankles turned out to be an asset. My knees hold up. I stay in constant motion; I don’t sit well. There was a time when I could win the race, not the age group. The race mattered to me – you either win or lose. There was nothing else. Black or white – I was good, not great. I could beat other runners, lots of them, and I liked that. Finishing first mattered. I don’t compete with others anymore. I run because I can. I liked the challenge, 5k, 10k, marathons. Distance didn’t matter. To do it right, to try to compete, you have to practice – a lot. I just don’t have that anymore. On a good day with the sun hiding behind clouds and the temperature just right, I will run longer than usual. I do trails. I do loops. I add one, two, three miles to the run – for fun. I’m lucky. I am sore some days, but it’s the good kind. I am not training for anything. I don’t stop, but know I can if I want to, or at least slow down. I see grays now. I run because I can. I’m lucky. I can run.

Copyright 2014 / Kris Craig / Providence Journal