In between updating multiple Web sites, tending to his four children and preparing packages to ship off to both his local and international clientele, Carl Christensen grabs his coat, camera and keeps a watchful eye during his daily travels. “I’m always looking for the next shot,” says the noted photographer. “I work 24-7.” But his course wasn’t always so clear.
It was over a decade ago that Christensen, then an advertising director and graphic designer, felt an instinctive pull to leave behind his corporate lifestyle and pursue his own craft. He shot some landscape images; headed, on a whim, to a flea market with his wife, Ina; and ended up selling a few hundred photos. “My wife said, ‘That’s where your heart is,’” Christensen recalls. Buoyed by his early success, Christensen took a leap of faith, opening his own gallery, Integrity Studio, in New Hope. The rest, as they say, is history.
From behind his lens, Christensen quickly cultivated a reputation as a Bucks County photographer. His stunning snapshots of the countryside, his unique take on the seemingly everyday object and a dedication to both refining and perfecting his technique has catapulted Christensen to the top of the local photography scene. But it’s his determination not to “paint myself into a corner,” that allows Christensen to break the photographic mold. His most-recent series, featuring images culled from carnivals and grange fairs with a decidedly vintage slant and illustrations created from underexposed photos, has sparked a strong reaction. “The response has been amazing. It’s been hard keeping them in the gallery,” Christensen says. “The work is more progressive, because, in today’s world, it simply has to be. It lends a warm, nostalgic feel to the images. It also represents the line I straddle between artist and father.”
While the gallery remains home, Christensen has recently harnessed the reach of online opportunities. His work, featured on Web sites like Fab, Etsy, Rue La La and One Kings Lane, has gained a level of exposure previously unavailable from his New Hope studio. “It’s been absolutely amazing,” Christensen says. “One of my works, Stuck in a Moment, was featured on ABC’s Modern Family. I’ve had shows as far as Australia. So much of the business has migrated into that arena it’s hard to fathom.” And perhaps one of the biggest additions to his resume is a 2013 calendar, featuring his images compiled by Orange Circle Design. As one of the largest calendar producers in the world, the end result will be available in Target stores nationwide.
Once solely devoted to his photo- graphs, the gallery, celebrating its 10-year anniversary in 2012, has now expanded to represent Christensen’s full repertoire, including handmade furniture-grade frames. “For every one person who says, ‘I like your photos,’ two say, ‘These frames are incredible,’” he says, adding that he initially began adding frames to his photographs as a cost-effective measure. “I can’t separate the work from the presentation. They’re really one and the same. Large murals with fine-art presentation are our staple, our bread and butter.”” And Christensen’s frames offer more than just aesthetic value. “I only work with North American poplar [wood], which is completely replenishable,” he explains. “I do all the milling and finishing by hand without the use of any petrochemicals.”
While images and woodworking take up much of Christensen’s day, he has at least one other creative pursuit. Quiet time is when he sits down to paint. “If I see something and it inspires me to do a painting, I’ll do it that night,” Christensen says, who adds he often gleans inspiration for his abstract Impressionist canvases from the light and shadow in his own photography.
Finding the motivation to work isn’t difficult for the father of four. When clients ask what keeps him churning out works of art, Christensen simply reels off a list of his bills and responsibilities. “I’m very passionate about my job,” he says. “But this is what motivates me: my five year old will ask, ‘Did you sell anything today, Dad?’”
And even though his family keeps him busy even when he’s not working, Christensen says he couldn’t do it without them. Ina reviews his work, trades ideas over traditional presentation versus murals and even collaborates with her husband. With an eye to the future, Christensen hopes his artistic legacy will continue in the form of his children, particularly his oldest, nine- year-old Fiona. “It would be a real dream to have her walk in the studio, hang her first piece and hand her the keys to the door,” he says. “Twenty years from now, we want a viable legacy we can hand over to our children.”
BY APRIL SOLLA AND SCOTT HOLLOWAY
Integrity Studio - 215-534-1500 - 40 Bridge Street New Hope PA. 18938