What I Do

 Images by  Ryan Smith

Images by Ryan Smith

I've documented Maoist Rebels, Palestinian protesters and roller derby queens. I've shared quiet moments with war-torn families, documented sacred ceremonies of the Dalai Lama and captured gang units busting through a drug dealer's home.

My love affair with photography began at age 10, when I told my dad I wanted a camera. We went to the used camera store for my birthday and picked out an AE-1 with a 50mm lens. I still shoot with it 30+ years later. 

I began studying photography in the classroom at age 15 and learned how to roll, process and print black and white images in the darkroom. I took a handful of fine art classes at college, ran the university darkroom and landed my first paying jobs in college. I was hooked. I spent the next 10+ years working a variety of staff positions, freelance and commercial work. 

At age 30, I knew it was time to formally perfect my craft. I returned to school and attended the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill where I majored in Visual Communications, from the School of Journalism and Mass Communications with an outside concentration in Peace, War and Defense. I am a Class of 1938 Fellow and have won numerous national awards for my documentary work on inner city crime and poverty. 

 My overseas documentary work focuses on the cultural preservation of post conflict communities and I have documented the Tibetan Exile community, Nepal's Maoist communities and the Palestinian communities in the West Bank. My overseas work includes the following countries; Nepal, India, Indonesia, Jordan, Egypt, Palestine,Israel, France and Italy. 

My passion lies in documenting the human condition, in its most natural and uninhibited form. My style is based on this belief and my job is to document the story, with any and all means necessary.

I translate the human condition into powerful art that helps shift our perceptions of reality.

I am interested in the real. The raw. The dark and twisty emotions that make us human. I capture the intensity of the human condition. I document the fractions of time that most people ignore, turn away from or simply can not see.

I get the pain, I understand the joy, I anticipate the sorrow. I embrace the laughter. I document the full range of human emotion, because that's how I experience my own life. My passion is out in the open for everyone to witness. 

My intensity, my joy, my laughter, my sorrow- they all live on the surface of my world. 

My emotions created the award-winning artist that stands before you. Had I not walked through my own deserts of pain or frolicked in my own fields of happiness, I would not have the capacity or the wisdom to document any story, in images, words and motion.

My passion for photography began at the age of 10, when my father purchased a camera- a "real adult" camera to satisfy my new found interest. And the rest is history.

I've worked as a staff photographer, freelanced for publications, photographed and produced documentaries for national corporations and documented countless moments of intimacy and intensity- at home and abroad. 


Crystal Street-204.jpg

The official bio

Crystal’s professional hats include documentary photographer, commercial producer and writer. Crystal studied visual communications and photojournalism at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and has worked throughout the developing world documenting communities and the cultural preservation of displaced populations.

Her documentary and journalism photography work has taken her across the US and around the world to locations including Pakistan, India, Egypt, Jordan, Indonesia and Italy.

Crystal has won multiple prestigious awards for her documentary multimedia work and has worked as a producer on international multimedia productions as well as nationally televised commercial campaigns.

Her commercial clients include Nissan North America, Whole Foods, Special Olympics, Pizza Hut, ATMC, Junior Achievement, World Bank, TerraSoft Organics and Oregon Public Broadcasting to name a few. Crystal is also an avid espresso drinker, people watcher, coffee shop hound and loves to get lost for hours in the darkroom. 

Beauty In Chaos is Crystal's long-term documentary project exploring the presence of Beauty within the context of Chaos. 

Crystal is also a communications coach at Be Human Be Real, helping clients craft & deploy authentic storytelling strategies for the year we live in.