“I had to bring a bottle of brandy, two oranges, and a white towel (to the voodoo ceremony). We went into a slum area of Trinidad where guys were drumming. The men who came to get me from my hotel pushed me off to one side. The lighting is very bad – just one bare light bulb – for the photos. I find out using a flash is forbidden ... after I’ve used it. About two hours pass … a woman becomes possessed, is talking in tongues … predicting the future. At one point she’s swinging a machete around - she points it at me and these two guys grab me and push me down on my knees in front of her in the circle.
“I’m thinking ‘Holy smokes!’ Now I’m in fight or flight mode. I had observed that none of the men would look her in the eye. So I did. She raised the machete … and then tapped me on each shoulder – like I had been knighted. As the morning came on everyone started to get normal again. One of the men walked me back to my hotel. I asked him what the hell happened back there. He said, ‘You were accepted by the god Shango.’ I asked what rejection would have entailed. He said, ‘You don’t want to know, mon.”
Just a day in the life of photojournalist Bob Krist. Over the last four-plus decades Krist has worked, in the early years as a freelancer, for National Geographic, National Geographic Traveler, Islands Magazine, Smithsonian, and others. During that time he traveled to all seven continents and visited over 160 countries. He’s written 15 books. The latest is a collection of some of Krist’s B&W images entitled, “Old Souls and Timeless Places.” Krist has made innumerable “how to” videos that are on Youtube – free of charge – for all the up-and-coming and established photographers alike.
Video storytelling was not what Krist had envisioned for himself as a young man, no his passion was the theater. When he was 19 the acting troupe he was with got a grant to play the stages of Europe! In addition to the clothing he packed a camera, and so did a fellow thespian who had quite a good eye and years of experimenting under his lens cap. And so it was the stage by night and photographing landscapes, famous landmarks, and his good-looking fellow thespians by day. Krist’s friend taught him all he knew. Krist built on what he’d learned once they were back in the States. Still performing by night … shooting the film by day.
As the adage goes, all good things must come to an end. Due to the recessions of the 1970s, he found himself cast in the role of laid-off regional theater company actor. Thanks to a childhood friend back home in New Jersey, Krist landed a job as a photographer for The Hudson Dispatch in Union City. It was his first news photography gig, and while apprehensive, the $140 weekly paycheck made it worth giving it a whirl over a three-week trial period. The paper kept him on. He stayed for five years.
“I had the most unbelievable luck … just stumbling on dramatic spot news and other stuff. I’d only planned to stay at the paper for a couple of years to off my debts,” shared Krist. “And I was meeting all of these real-life characters I thought I could use for inspiration when I returned to acting … but I got hooked on photography. But when digital became king I told my wife, Peggy, I didn’t want to learn it, I wanted to retire. I was too old. She said ‘you’d better learn it – we’ve got three kids in college!’
“So there I am 58, 59 years old shooting video. I just threw myself into it and I really loved it ... finally at this stage of life and this stage of my career,” said Bob. “I love the level of control and creativity I have. I decide what the story is, what the interview questions will be.”
Bob did retire in 2016. But he hasn’t stopped telling stories. He and his wife, Peggy, made Boothbay Harbor their summer home a few years back (their winter home is in Mexico). And then COVID-19 came to town. The Krists were in Mexico last March but came back to Maine as soon as talk of closing the border came to their attention.
So what’s a storyteller to do but look for more, now in his own backyard rather than halfway across the world. Last summer Bob and Peggy traveled to Burnt Island. Krist said he was so impressed by the summertime living history tour there, he wanted to do a video. At one point he realized he’d need to set his drone free for some aerial shots, which attracted the attention of someone working on the island. Krist explained what he was doing and pretty soon Elaine Jones, island keeper came over to see what the fuss was about. She said they should go see what Krist had gotten so far. Well – Elaine liked it. “They didn’t press charges,” Krist said. “They did put it up on the Keepers website.”
And through that Burnt Island project, the Krists met Jean and Bob McKay, longtime dedicated Burnt Island volunteers/keepers. The McKays are involved with the Eastside Waterfront Park project .. and guess who’s shooting video to document it?
Tracey Hall of Boothbay Region Land Trust heard about Krist because her daughter was a volunteer on Burnt Island. It was Christine Selman at the Land Trust who reached out to Krist about the possibility of working with him on a series of four videos featuring as many properties – including Damariscove.
“We were so happy to have Bob Krist volunteer with us this past summer and create some amazing films of the preserves,” said Hall. “He was great to work with, very professional, and had a beautiful vision.”
After the board at Boothbay Railway Village decided the Museum wouldn’t open for the 2020 season due to COVID, Krist contacted Lori Reynolds, the BRV’s marketing director.
“We knew we were going to have to get creative,” Reynolds said. “And, that is exactly what he did! Bob made it so easy and fun - we got the entire BRV team involved. It was an incredibly effective way to tell the story of how the team was moving forward as time stood still.”
Reynolds says the Village has received countless rave reviews for “The Lonely Conductor.” Find it at https://railwayvillage.org. It’s also linked to this article online.
Reynolds, also at Boothbay Harbor Region Chamber of Commerce, contacted Krist about a video for the Chamber to celebrate its new website. Did Krist have any footage somewhere that might be made into something different to benefit local tourism?
Well, yes he did – and 60% of it was shot from his condo deck at Carousel Marina. Krist also used some of BRTV Media Center director Jonne Trees’ drone clips over the harbor. Krist’s video for Boothbay Harbor Region Chamber of Commerce is at www.boothbayharbor.com.
“The whole travel business has been so good to me over the years, if I can do something to give back, I will,” Krist said.