Don Craig startled us back a few months ago with an email containing an image that he’d captured at Hernande’z (you can see it on the “Read First” page). It was so stunning, such a beautiful representation of the spirit of what we were wanting to convey during our celebrations for the Dia del Virgen del Guadalupe that we knew he had a special gift. We emailed him immediately to ask permission to post the photo on our site (which he graciously gave) and we asked to see more.
His website at www.doncraigdesign.com is filled with an array of beauty, unlike anything we’d seen before! Take a moment and visit it. In the interview, I was surprised to learn that most of those photos were taken in his kitchen, using flowers that he bought here in Victoria. What? You mean, I have access to these same flowers?! They weren’t some sort of special import under extreme conditions of care? So, it seems, Don Craig has the ability to elevate the normal, the usual, to enable us to see things differently too.
Where did he get his eye?
He tells me that he’d gone to the California College of Arts and Crafts and started his graphic design career in the San Francisco Bay Area. As a graphic designer, he is constantly working with great photographs; cropping them, positioning them in relationship to other elements, like whitespace and typography. Over the years, this has developed his eye for photography, a talent he hasn’t pursued seriously…until five years ago.
With regard to photography, he describes himself as “self educated” through workshops and experimentation with different cameras, lighting and subjects. He says “All is interesting, but what has been appealing to me has been abstract architecture, still lifes, flowers and street photography.” He now always carries a camera with him. “Many days can pass with no photos at all, other days it feels like there are props around the city just waiting for me,” explains Don.
I ask him what makes him decide to take a photo and he explains: “Light. It’s always about light. If the light isn’t available, there is no point taking the photo. Without the lighting, it is just a recording of an event, instead of my vision of what it should be or what it can be. That night at Hernande’z, I was able to capture the warm, evocative, beautiful soft glow of the light of the candles on the flowers. “How?” I asked. He replies: “I just simplify what you are seeing and eliminate the extraneous”. “Oh”, I mused “like life, it’s all about what to include in your narrative and what to crop out.” Don explains that much of his work on his website (doncraigdesign.com) frames the smaller elements within the whole to focus on the details that tell a compelling story. Then, in the next breath, he explains that his photographic interest has evolved from these controlled, focused sessions to a totally different venue. He explains that his latest experiments are in “street photography” because street photography has technical constraints. By necessity, the photographer must focus larger while maintaining a compelling story. And this is providing Don with the necessary creative challenge which he needs to grow.
He explains that there is another component to street photography which he finds difficult to master. Intrinsic to the genre of street photography itself, is a requirement of fearlessness. The environment of street photography is by definition totally uncontrolled. It is necessary to master various interacting dynamics: the dynamism of peoples’ movement, the lighting, the manual focus on the (by necessity) small hand held camera and the movement. It is these variables that make the project interesting and exciting. And while we may have fallen in love with those gorgeous technically precise images on his website, he assures me that the best photographs in the street photography genre are not technically good, they may even be out of focus; but they evoke a feeling. “The commonality of good photographers is that the emotional content of their work is more important than their technical proficiency…but technical proficiency is easier to attain than emotional content,” says Don.
He reminds me that photography literally translated means “writing with light”and compares the art of painting with the art of photography: “with painting, you are adding things to the canvas until it’s finished, with photography, you are eliminating everything away from the photo until it’s finished.”
Don Craig is able to pursue his graphic design work through his career with the Public Affairs Bureau. He also teaches how to use “Lightroom” (a software digital darkroom) at Luz Gallery where he designs customized hands on learning for applications workshops in which students will learn what they need to know in order to get great results in their areas of focus!
(go back to “community” “about you” to read more about your fellow Hernande’z patrons!)