A beautiful photograph is like a gifted athlete: they both make something indescribably difficult look easy enough for anyone to accomplish. Photographer Tracey Kroll takes pictures that are the embodiment of those qualities.
Kroll, who grew up in Darien and lives in New Canaan with his wife and three children, is a photographer for Consumer Reports. It's his ability to meld precision with simplicity that makes his shots of automobiles so compelling. His work graces the pages of the magazine every month, but his start in photography was somewhat accidental. After a hand injury in college forced him to withdraw for a semester, his father, "One of the real 'Mad Men,'" he says, suggested Tracey meet one of his New York City photographer friends. "I walked into this gorgeous studio and ended up staying five years." He knew within the first few photo shoots that he had found his "calling," as he refers to it.
At 27, Tracey moved back to Connecticut and began his own business, specializing in corporate, editorial and portraiture. Most of his work was shot on location, so he was on the road "pretty much non-stop" for the better part of 20 years. But 16 years ago, his work for a shoot at Scientific American caught the eye of editors at CR, and they subsequently asked him to shoot some cars. Although he'd never done any car photography he figured it out in short order – testing his camera and skills "like mad" in order to get better images.
It worked. Shooting cars (he works at the CR test track in Colchester, CT) is appealing to Tracey on multiple levels. For one, cars, unlike people, don't "talk back" to him. But his niche poses challenges as well. "Cars are very large reflective products with curbed surfaces that 'see' everything around them. It's difficult to light them in the studio, but out on the track -- where I spend about 40 percent of my time -- the challenge is to capture something visually interesting or that helps explain an editorial point."
As dynamic as his work is, Tracey – like any artist -- has his eye on other projects. "I'd like to do a series on drummers," he says. "I'm a drummer and I love the art form." Still, his focus on cars keeps him interested and engaged. What would pique his vehicular automotive interest? "I'd love to shoot the Batmobile," he says.
Maybe the next time Consumer Reports reviews it, he'll get his chance.
Have you ever tried to take a "real" photograph, as opposed to a snap shot? Were you successful in so doing? Let me know here.