2018-06-21 / News

Former pro sailor at helm of exhibit


Photographer Paul Cronin chose 18 photographs for his solo exhibit at the library, including “Sunrise Visit,” a close-up of a therapy horse in Colorado. 
PHOTO BY JILLIAN BARBER Photographer Paul Cronin chose 18 photographs for his solo exhibit at the library, including “Sunrise Visit,” a close-up of a therapy horse in Colorado. PHOTO BY JILLIAN BARBER Although it’s been more than four decades since Paul Cronin began using a camera, it took until this month for the photographer to have his own solo exhibition.

Selections from the Narragansett Avenue naval architect’s nature portfolio will be on display in the library’s foyer through July 3. So far, Cronin has been greeted with positive reactions.

“The response has been great,” he said. “It’s been fun to cull through all of my files to get down to the amount that would fit.”

While Cronin has lived in Jamestown for 22 years, the decision to publicly display his work is a fairly recent development. The spark came when an acquaintance asked him for photography lessons. The woman balked at the price from another local photographer, but Cronin offered to teach her the basics. While he was developing some of her pictures, the woman saw some of Cronin’s work over his shoulders.

“I just want to buy that,” she told him. “You have to sell your stuff.”

“She was the one who pushed me over the edge,” he said.

That’s when Cronin joined the Conanicut Island Art Association with help from his neighbor, ceramist Jillian Barber, a prominent member of the association. As library curator, she also arranged for the display.

“He’s a fabulous photographer,” Barber said. “He is a person who lives each day to the fullest, with intensity, passion and drive. He said that when he goes to shoot in nature, he prefers to go by himself. He really communes with nature and he knows his camera so well. They’re like minds, his camera and him.”

A family of photos

Cronin’s exhibit debuted on the first weekend in June with photographs of waves, animals, landscapes and forests. He does not have a favorite from the 18 submissions he chose for the gallery, saying they are all “kind of like his kids.”

One of the photographs is “Sunrise Visit,” an extreme close-up of a horse on a Colorado farm operated by his friends. The animal is of one of the friendly equines used in therapy sessions for veterans and terminally ill patients. One morning, Cronin was walking around the farm while the animals were being fed and this horse came straight to him.

“When you put a lens up to most horses, they look at the lens because they think it’s an eye,” he said. “In the eye of that horse, you can see the sunrise.”

There also are images that focus on Cronin’s lifelong love of water. For instance, “Receding Falls” captures waves receding from the rocks at the Dingle Peninsula in Ireland, one of the westernmost points in Europe.

“A lot of people like to get the wave crashing, but I like when the wave crashes and comes up, and starts receding back out,” he said. ““It’s very rough coastline. The rocks, the colors and the textures are fantastic.”

Others photos capture scenery along his hometown coast, including a dramatic image of waves crashing off the shore of Beavertail State Park. Cronin said Jamestown does not lack natural scenes worthy of a snapshot.

Started as a child

A native of Tarrytown, N.Y., and one of seven siblings, Cronin has been photographing since he was 8 years old. He began selling his work as a teenager in the 1970s. His interest started when his parents bought their children Polaroid cameras. Shortly after, he and his younger brother developed a passion for shooting film, and their father taught them how to use his hand-cranked 16mm camera.

“We used to use it on the family boat,” he said. “He taught us how to hand crank, splice it and put together a family film.”

As a director and camera operator, he has shot high-quality 4K, raw and S-Log footage for a variety of clients during the past 30 years, including capturing aerial footage for the Discovery Channel documentary series “Lobstermen.”

“We did five different shoots, and they were either early sunrise or sunset, and we did one night shoot,” he said.

Cronin has no preference between photography and videography because they are different processes. While he typically takes still photographs at his own leisure, his video work is done for a specific client with a crew and a budget.

Cronin’s love of the ocean isn’t just limited to the lens. He graduated from the Maine Maritime Academy in 1987 with a degree in naval architecture, and he has been designing yachts for the last 30 years. He was employed as a production engineer and designer at Pearson Yachts in Portsmouth and as a custom boat designer at Pedrick Yacht Designs in Newport. In 1992, he co-founded Hop on Top Kayaks in Bristol while designing his own patented style of kayaks. After he sold the company in 1997, it was renamed to Heritage Kayaks and still is in business today.

In addition to his yacht design, video and photography careers, Cronin was a professional sailor for 35 years. Yet, for the residents of Jamestown, his photographs will be the most visible work.

“I hope they come in and take some time and relax and see a little bit of a story in each photograph,” he said.”

The library isn’t the only place around town where Cronin’s work can be viewed. Three of his photographs are hanging in Town Hall as part of the “Images of Jamestown” show, while prints are also available for sale at the Fuller Gallery on Narragansett Avenue.

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