Award-winning photographer Bob Krist loves to tell a good story, and one of his favorites is about the time he met Bob Gilka, Director of Photography at National Geographic. Back then, Bob was an aspiring photojournalist and would-be world wanderer, who could only dream of securing an assignment from the prestigious travel magazine. But he had also just been named “Photojournalist of the Year” by a New Jersey newspaper, and that gave him the courage to approach Gilka about a job.
“The initial meeting did not go well. Gilka tore apart my work and suggested that I find ‘more interesting things to stand in front of,’” recalls Bob. Determined not to squander the opportunity in front of him, Bob suggested that he was the right photographer to shoot a particular feature for the magazine that no one else wanted. It was called “The New Jersey Nobody Knows.”
Bob certainly knew New Jersey, having just spent five years as a photojournalist with the Hudson Dispatch in Union City. It was a gig he originally took to earn some money while trying to get his acting career off the ground. Yet a funny thing happened on the way to not getting his acting career off the ground: He fell in love with photography.
That had not been the plan. “I really wanted to be an actor,” he recalls. “When the opportunity came along to perform in Europe as part of a theater troupe, I jumped at it.” He soon realized that he could make more money taking headshots of actors than being one himself. He also discovered his passion for travel. He loved wandering the streets of Europe, immersing himself in the culture and absorbing the beauty and intriguing sights and sounds around him.
After returning to his home state of New Jersey, without an acting or any other kind of job, a friend connected him to a local newspaper. The rest, as they say, is history that he helped to record. He continued to find himself, time after time, with camera in hand, at the right place at the right time, just as major news stories were unfolding. He might not have known it at the time, but this was his training for his later-in-life career as a documentary filmmaker. The one he enjoys now.
The Art of Storytelling
Of course, Bob is best known for his years as a freelance travel photographer for such publications as National Geographic, National Geographic Traveler, Smithsonian and Islands. It was a job that took him around the world, many times. “I have been to more than 150 countries, on all seven continents,” he recalls.
During these assignments, he captured not only some of the world’s most breathtaking scenery, but also the fascinating characters, cultural rituals and simple everyday occurrences that make life so interesting. While he doesn’t consider himself an adventurer, there were times he found himself in some pretty exhilarating, and at times dangerous, situations. He was once stranded on a glacier in Iceland for three days during a blizzard. Another time he ran in front of charging bulls in India. Yet, what he really enjoyed most was the opportunity to channel his inner storyteller. His early days as a photojournalist taught him to recognize the most compelling human interest stories and bring them to life.
For the Love of Film
Bob’s skill and intuition as a storyteller, combined with his extraordinary talent as a photographer, brought him much professional success and personal satisfaction. Over the years, he won awards in the Pictures of the Year, Communication Arts and World Press Photo competitions. He was also named “Travel Photographer of the Year” by the Society of American Travel Writers three times and was honored at the Eisenstadt Awards for Magazine Photography.
However, once digital photography began to dominate his craft, he found he had little interest or patience for learning this new skill. He was a film guy. And a storyteller. The transition to video came naturally.
While he’s a late-career convert to video storytelling, his short films have been exhibited in film festivals in Italy, Iceland and the United States, as well as National Geographic’s website, and have won gold and silver awards for broadcast travel journalism.
He has also found success as a writer. His latest book, “Old Souls & Timeless Places,” won the Best Travel Book of 2020 in the Lowell Thomas Travel Journalism Competition sponsored by the Journalism School at the University of Missouri.
The early days of the pandemic grounded most of us, including the world-traveling Bob Krist, who currently lives in Boothbay Harbor, Maine, and San Miguel de Allende, Mexico, with his wife, Peggy. He has been sharing his experiences, knowledge and helpful tips in various educational series, including the Fundamentals of Travel Photography Great Course series.
This year, Phillips’ Mill Photo is honored to have Bob Krist jury their prestigious Phillips’ Mill Photographic Exhibition, which opens at the Phillips' Mill on April 2nd. Bob has a long history supporting Phillips’ Mill and the arts community of Bucks County, Pa., where he and his wife Peggy lived and raised their three sons before moving to Maine.
Find more information about Bob Krist on his website at bobkrist.com.