Artist of the Month at All Angels captures the photos and then takes the process to its framed completion.
Chris Collins’ art may be new to you, but to the man behind the camera, it’s a continuation of what he’s been doing for more than 20 years.
He's a one-stop shop, of sorts, shooting, editing, printing, matting and framing his work in his own custom-made frames.
Collins is Artist of the Month for All Angels by the Sea Episcopal Church, and while he now has the whole gallery to himself and his own photographs, his art first entered the church during its recent New to You art sale, in which members brought in art they couldn’t fit on their walls. Collins brought in a selection of his own work. Each photograph’s frame complements the colors in the picture itself, like one of a forest cabin in Tennessee that’s on a hunter green matte and framed with rough brown wood.
“I do the whole thing,” Collins said. “I shoot it and then I put it in and I work it on my computer, and once I go to print it out, I like and I go ahead and build the frame. That's how it gets to the wall.”
He’s a mostly self-taught photographer and framer, having built on the base from a few classes he took years ago. Photography has been his hobby for about 20 years, he said, one that came out of the beautiful places to which he’s traveled. Aside from traveling within the U.S., he and his wife, Luanne, have gone to much of Europe and Africa, as well as Japan.
“I'm ex-Air Force, so I had seen a lot of the world,” Collins said. “I just wanted to see more without a uniform on.”
As he traveled, he realized he liked taking photos and that he was pretty good with a camera. It wasn’t a new concept, but he’d never had a camera around as a hobby before. When he and his wife first moved to the area, Collins bought a print shop in downtown Bradenton, where he did brochure photography and other business needs.
Before that, when he and his wife had lived in West Virginia, he worked for Doubleday Publishing where he created the flat pages of text and images that would later be turned into books. Collins had the building blocks of the skills needed to artfully frame things. As he gathered photos, he wanted a way to display them. That led him to Manatee Community College, where he was already teaching, and classes in photography and framing.
“I’m really not that good as far as trying to draw something,” Collins said. “I like the mechanical part of what you do when you're using a camera. I let the camera do what I can't do by my hand, and then I work with it to make it look even better.”
Over the years, Collins has sold many of his matted and framed prints. He’s found that the ones that do best are the mountains and nature scenes. The photos he creates to sell are the ones he thinks people will be most likely to hang on their walls, so he sticks to popular places. If someone hasn’t been to the place, why would they put it on their wall? Like the great outdoors appeal to his customers, so too do they strike the fancy of their photographer.
“I liked best what I did with landscapes, sunsets, and water scenes,” Collins said. “The actual designing and frame building plus the selection of matte color and image sizes became the challenge.”
He now has 16 framed prints hanging in the gallery at All Angels and will donate all the funds back to the church, which he and his wife have been part of for about two years. Collins also has a permanent wall at the Artists Guild Gallery in Holmes Beach, where he built shelves and the rolling wooden sign outside. Along with his photos, he sells wooden box frames that other artists or visitors can buy to create something on. His frames are a part of his art just as much as his photos are.
“I have always liked working with my hands and brains on visible projects,” Collins said.
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