CD: Chris, many thanks for taking part in the FUSEVISUAL interviews. We have known each other for a while and you’ve continued to shoot your incredible mermaid series. How and when did this project start? What was the initial draw to mermaids?
Chris Crumley: The body of mermaid work began on a boat with underwater model Sherry Smith in the Bahamas near Cuba several years ago. We had been shooting underwater editorial and catalog work for years and wanted to take it beyond scuba diving. Thinking we would try mermaids for a subject, Sherry took our idea to a fashion design professor at the University of Southern Illinois. The two of them came up with costume design sketches and I commissioned construction of Tail #1 and a top.
Sherry and I took the tail everywhere we traveled and started the collection that now numbers over 10,000 images; probably the largest in the world. I now have seven tails in the studio, the latest four made of pure silicone by Eric Ducharme, The MerTailor in Crystal River, Florida. I shoot mermaids all over the world.
There are 100+ examples linked from my homepage.
CD: Tell me about the mermaid workshops – when and how? The objective?
Chris Crumley: The Mermaid Portfolio Workshops came from a number of people all over the world who were interested in “becoming mermaids” and wanting high quality photos of themselves in varied settings. I teamed up with Portsmouth, Virginia dive shop owners Malena Sharkey and Robert Minnick to create the workshop three years ago. We’ll do four workshops this year in Mexico and the Bahamas (one on a sailboat in the Exuma Cays, two with whale sharks on Isla Mujeres and one in Mexican cenotes on the Yucatan Peninsula).
We teach students how to interact with the camera. This includes underwater body positions, makeup, hair, eye contact and a host of other techniques they’ll use to make themselves look natural and real on land and underwater.
CD: You are known for your beautiful underwater work and you also shoot portraits and commercial work on-location. How do you balance and promote each photographic specialty?
Chris Crumley: “Balance” may be my biggest challenge. I love my job and I’m drawn to different aspects of it. Fortunately, I have a brilliant IT/Network person who’s been with me for 15+ years and he helps me with all we do with computers, networks, SEO, Web and that sort of thing. I also have a talented assistant who can do “anything” and is an excellent retoucher. We also work with Shark Pixel Retouching in Washington, DC for certain retouching work.
CD: If you were starting out now – would you shoot stills only, or shoot stills and video?
Chris Crumley: I enjoy shooting motion and more and more clients are asking for it in addition to stills, so I’d have to say “both.” However, someone who shoots stills primarily likely won’t be well-positioned to shoot large-crew video. A photographer needs to know enough about motion to do what they can do, then, the wisdom to team with or defer complex jobs to a large-crew video production company.
CD: What advice would you give a young photographer about to embark on a career in photography?
Chris Crumley: Probably the most important thing a young photographer can do is work for an established photographer for a few years. During workdays, an assistant can absorb a huge amount of knowledge about the business of photography in a working studio.
After hours, using knowledge gained while assisting, they can work on developing the body of work they’ll need to entice clients on their own.
CD: Social media is a powerful platform for outreach and self-promotion that so many photographers use today. Can you share some thoughts and advice regarding your use of social media to promote your work?
Chris Crumley: In today’s world photographers need a website as much as they need a camera and it needs to be orderly and fast. A creative director/designer needs to be able to get around a site quickly to see if a photographer’s work is going to be a match for a job they visualize. No music. No slideshows. No sluggish response. It needs an organization that allows them to see a portion of the site that will let them make decisions.
The chriscrumley.com site is in its third version. It is pure and fast HTML. One section is a pictureBlog; new work with very brief backstories. Additionally, there are small bits of humor and personality. Just enough for someone who wants to take notice; not enough to put others off. Well, in my opinion, anyway.
Linked from the homepage are four portfolios with a custom designed/programmed format and navigation tools. The viewer can see a compete matrix of images and click an image to see a large version. They can also click through the file in sequence at any speed using keyboard arrow keys or mouse clicks and return home from any place on the site. It was designed for someone in a hurry, but also allows someone to go as slow as they wish.
On the SEO scene, I’m not making significant use of Twitter, but have an active Facebook presence in parallel with my Blog and BlogBook. FB grousing is alive and well here and will be as long as they strip all metadata from every image posted. But, FB is a valuable tool for staying in touch with others, often on the other side of the planet!