Craig A Challgren, Photographer
Cryptoprismatics’ online gallery is pleased to share images made by Craig Challgren artist/photographer. Many images are presented here for the first time. Craig was first published forty years ago. Photography has changed a lot since then. His work has transformed through time. The images often include both the real and the abstract. You will not see all the details on your screen. That is why these images are made available as prints.
Enjoy your visit.
Background on the Photographer:
This background covers four decades to provide some clues. Craig Challgren's first master, the owner of a portrait studio, Lowell Welke, showed him a Rolliecord and a Graflex strobe. "We need some basketball shots for the yearbooks. Stand just out of bounds, shoot when they get within 25 feet." Prepare the setup and wait, learn to anticipate events. Strobe on camera was "professional" in the sixties, ordinary people had flashbulbs. The basketball players were the stars, but people on the street gave him respect when the local paper also ran his best shots. “I had only taken one roll of pictures before I was paid to make pictures,” he says. Six outdoor shots on a trip to the Capital in St Paul, MN turned out. The gold horses on the roof looked great, but the last two taken inside were nearly blank. The dual nature of photography slowly becomes clear--light on film records a moment for the future.
Craig Challgren's darkroom skills gave him a head start in the photojournalism department at the U of M. He was elected national president of the photojournalism fraternity (KAM). Visual communication was just beginning in college. Journalists use pictures to help tell their story. In this context, straight photography is held in the highest esteem. The visual narrator does not manipulate the reality to be recorded. The photographer chooses the moment and the angle. Henri Cartier-Bresson's phrase "the decisive moment" emphasizes that elements achieve maximum dynamics once in time. Extending this thinking nearly leaves the photographer outside the reality he records.
At a Philosophy of Photography workshop in Oregon, Craig met W Eugene Smith who spoke of responsibility and truth with the 35mm camera . Smith maintained the photographer himself has a unique experience (being there at the moment of exposure) that no one else understands. Smith's image of two children walking into the light in "The Family of Man" is a classic positive expression. (The full meaning is clearer when you know it was the first Smith made while recovering from a personal head injury sustained while documenting war).
A patient man with a tripod loves Ansel Adams. The small art gallery upstairs in Northrup on campus showed Ansel Adam's stunning six foot wide prints made from 8x10 film. "They were so big you had to step back to the opposite wall for proper perspective," Craig recalls. Years later, Challgren prints hung in the same room.
Out of college, Craig worked at MultiMedia, Inc. where large corporations bought enormous quantities of slides for multiple projection systems. Hand held available light shots requiring pushed processing were typical. Seeing all those multiple images on screen heightened his awareness of the interplay between images. The process supported photography in pieces for assembly later (two or three screens side by side). One single picture does NOT tell the full story. In fact, "weaker" photographs are often very useful for multi-image compositing. "Leave me some space for type," art directors say. Craig sees pictures with spaces--adding his own manipulations later.
Craig Challgren's second apprenticeship at a custom optical shop in Minneapolis made him a 'light bender." Harold Watson at E&W Optical was a photographer who had attended Ansel Adams workshops himself. Harold understood many mysterious aspects of light. E&W made to order precision glass for telescopes, lasers, and other electo-optical devices. Extremely flat quartz coated with titanium in the vacuum chamber was Harold's specialty. (He baked them in a kiln to a partial reflecting surface.) Master Harold would say, "look at these fringes" as he put a little nose grease on a freshly ground lens to get a reflection. Instant enlightenment! Moire' patterns in color looked like magic to a documentary photographer. Optical elements can be measured with light interference patterns. The contour maps in reflecting surfaces reveal their shape with patterns of repeating rainbows. Harold encouraged creativity allowing "end-of-the-day-glass." Cut offs and over runs build up over the years. The shop was a gold mine for Craig. Raw glass became spheres, prisms, lenses, and filters. For these years, recording light was not important. Controlling light was the quest.
Harold collected cameras. A man brought in a Polaroid film attachment that had a big scratch across the transparent cover. He wanted a new glass plate. That would have been too expensive. Harold bought the back and gave it to Craig. "I polished out the scratch without removing the glass from the housing. Not a perfect optical decision, but good enough for Polaroid test exposures." The dual film process sustained years of multiple exposures made first on Polaroid, second on roll film in the camera.
The first photograph, with the repaired back, was an optical "flower" exposed over a real flower bed. Instant Polaroid prints are a wonderful tool forcing you to see what the camera sees. Critical balance in exposure levels is established in minutes. Conventional film processing generally produces results in hours or overnight. The instant feedback is water in the desert. He photographed lights, exploring diffracted spectra (rainbows). Recording light rays on film is a study of color not from a book, but from personal observation.
The classic light source used by photographers is the sun. The silent solar energy coming in a southern window is a natural meditation at noon. Dividing white light into narrower wavelengths of color, his solar demonstrations are unforgettable. How fast the earth turns! The colors shift! The next series of pictures recorded reflected sunlight. Only the photographer understands those opticals (as T. Eugene Smith might say). The colors are far better live through the lens! Some of those abstract light patterns have been published on church bulletins.
Two similar black and white engravings, each a frontispiece in old books, were the inspiration for "solar hands." They would have been rendered in color if the artists had had four color printing. "I made a single exposure into the sun using a rear screen."
Photographing the world around us is rewarding, but creating something to record allows more imagination. Visual interplay with multiple exposures expands a picture's story. He was layering images on film in the camera (before widespread digital computer graphics technology). Exploring Edward Steichen's classic task: choose a white object and photograph it in many situations. The task teaches rendition of tonal scale. Craig's white cup includes a composite of more than forty exposures on one piece of negative roll film. Now titled "light lunch" a.k.a. "the cherry picture" the cup is real.
Now that technology has caught up with Craig's thought process and way of working, he has been able to push his work and imagery even further. He continues to capture natural elements for manipulation into sublime and truly inspiring works of art which express a unique vision of the world.. Was it optical or was it digital? Sometimes both.
All images offered here by Cryptoprismatics are copyrighted.
With the artist's permission, some images can be reproduced for a fee.
E-mail your idea and intended application for consideration. Cryptoprismatics has nearly perfected it's printing process, and is able to offer large format, high quality prints suitable for framing as artwork. Art is not a luxury, it is good for your health. Waiting rooms everywhere certainly need art. Our images would enliven and enhance any office, home, or public space. They are also available for inclusion in gallery exhibitions.