The detail in Craig Nowatzke's photography draws its depth from his experiences and observations.
Craig Nowatzke believes that celebrating the smallest details around us should be an integral part of daily life.
"At any point in time, you can just stop and look around. There is always a cool image. There is always something with a good perspective," he said.
A photographer and Lawrence resident, Nowatzke has been attuned to the scenes of everyday life since he discovered photography at age 13.
For the past year he has operated Sunrise Photography, a Lawrence wedding photography business. However, his position as a claims representative at Topeka's Social Security office keeps him from doing photography full-time.
In Nowatzke's spare time, his passion for photography is carried out in the homemade studio that occupies his kitchen. Both his varied employment and personal experiences lend perceptive to his black-and-white photos.
Nowatzke has used a wheelchair since age 18, when a stroke in his spinal cord left him a paraplegic. The illness occurred shortly after he enrolled at Kansas University.
Following the illness, Nowatzke returned to his Kansas City home to rehabilitate. He later earned bachelor's and master's degrees in rehabilitation counseling and education in the early 1990s from Emporia State University. He is vice president of the Kansas City Wheelchair Road and Track Club, which organizes outdoor sporting events for people in wheelchairs.
Much of Nowatzke's work captures stark contrasts and the relationships among shapes.
"I definitely like shapes and forms," he said. "I don't do many whole objects, but I like to get in on them and go for shapes."
One of his favorite color projects is an untitled photo that depicts a group of four standing people and another person in a wheelchair. The subjects are framed by the mist of the Cliffs of Moor, off Ireland's west coast. Nowatzke took the photo in 1997, when he traveled to Ireland with the Kansas City Rugby Club and his friend Byron House, president of the Kansas City Wheelchair Road and Track Club.
Although Nowatzke does time-lapse photography, his portfolio is dominated by black-and-white detail studies. He is currently completing a lengthy project of 24 portraits of 12 people from various ethnic, gender and class backgrounds. The images, he said, will be displayed side by side, thus emphasizing the dynamic differences between people.
"I see my photography as capturing something impressionable," he said. "Often when you see something it is stamped in your head, and this is often in black and white more than in color."
Nowatzke's formal training includes several photography classes in 1988 and 1989 at Johnson County Community College in Overland Park. He spends most evenings experimenting in his studio.
His efforts to draw attention to his work may be paying off. He recently displayed 14 portraits at the Replay Lounge, which held a benefit to help the Kansas City Wheelchair Road and Track Club purchase Jetski insurance for its members.
Nowatzke sold several framed portraits at the benefit and is now showing his portfolio at local businesses. He hopes his efforts will lead to small exhibits, thus giving a voice to images.
"Photography," he said, "is like writing down a thought."
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