September 2012


Color Photos

By Daniel Kramer

I grew up captivated by the colorful characters in Marvel Comics. In college, I was introduced to Gauguin, Matisse and Van Gogh. In 1994, as I was pursuing my MFA in Documentary Photojournalism, I was introduced to the work of Magnum photographer Alex Webb and the planets aligned. I got it. His photographs made sense to me and I have been making pictures in public ever since.

My visual exploration of Houston began in 2006 when I had a weekly photo column with the alternative Houston Press newspaper. In 2010, I began teaching a street photography class at Rice University’s School of Continuing Education. In the 20th century, Henri Cartier-Bresson, Robert Frank and Gary Winogrand all spent time in the Houston area working as documentary street photographers.

Today, the fourth largest city in the United States is surging. According to the U.S. Census, in the last decade, Houston grew by 7% and will soon overtake Chicago as the third largest city in the United States.

I am interested in documenting people in Houston’s public spaces and capturing serendipitous, candid moments of interaction within the architectural landscape. Combining these slice-of-life vignettes is a personal journey in the visual exploration of my adopted hometown.



I received my first camera as a birthday gift from my dad in 1983, just as I was heading to college at the University of Minnesota. After working at The Minnesota Daily as a freelance reporter and photographer and interning with the Minneapolis Star-Tribune I graduated with a BA in Journalism.

In 1995, I earned my MFA in Documentary Photojournalism from the Academy of Art University in San Francisco.

That was a big year for me as I also interned with Newsday, was selected to the Eddie Adams Workshop, received my first grant and embarked on my first freelance project in which I retraced Mark Twain’s route around the world on the 100th anniversary of his journey. In all, this project took me through 11 countries in 10 months and was self-financed with nine credit cards.

Two months after returning, I began my second freelance project when renowned sports writer Dick Schaap hired me to provide the photographs for his book, Green Bay Replay. The book compared current Green Bay Packer players with their counterparts from the Vince Lombardi era. Dick had an uncanny sense of timing and luck as the Packers concluded the season by winning Super Bowl XXXI. A selection of fifty photographs from the book then toured Wisconsin museums for three years.

The following year, 1998, I began my third freelance project when I traveled to Havana with a freelance photojournalist visa from the Village Voice to cover the historic visit of Pope John Paul II. I returned many times over the course of three years, traveling the length and breadth of the country photographing daily life. Fifty photographs from the project were exhibited at the International Photography Gathering in Syria and two photographs were acquired for the permanent collection of the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston.

In 2002, I received a grant from the Montana Historical Society to document the life of my extraordinary grand-aunt, Bobby Brooks Kramer, a legendary Montana cowgirl who is in the Cowgirl Hall of Fame. The resulting project was published in Big Sky Journal and exhibited at the Western Heritage Center in Billings, Montana.

In 2003, I accepted the Staff Photographer position with the Houston Press. During my time with the Press I had my own photo column, won two national photography awards and numerous local awards including first place in the photo essay category in 2006, 2007, 2008 and 2009.

In 2008, I began teaching at Rice University’s Continuing Education program and also won the Photojournalist of the Year Award from the Houston Press Club. In 2009 I began teaching at the Art Institute of Houston.

During the last 20 years, I have had the great fortune to photograph some of the icons of our time: Mother Teresa, Pope John Paul II, Queen Elizabeth II, Nelson Mandela, Fidel Castro, the Dalai Lama, Joey Ramone, Iggy Pop, Frank Sinatra, Bono, Keith Richards, Neil Young, Pete Townsend, Wayne Gretzky, Michael Jordan, Tiger Woods and Brett Favre. But at my core, I have always been a street photographer with a love of color and moments of beauty in everyday life. Hanging on the wall in my mother’s office is an unattributed, framed quote: “My favorite thing is to go where I’ve never been.” For years I’ve looked at that quote and silently agreed with its sentiment. Then I learned that it comes from the iconic street photographer Diane Arbus. And so it goes.