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Lauded bay area dance photographer Tom Kramer dies

Bill DeYoung

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Photographer Tom Kramer. Screengrab.

St. Petersburg’s arts community lost one of its most vocal – and creative – supporters Thursday when photographer Tom Kramer died at 87.

Kramer and his wife, dancer and choreographer Paula Kramer, came to the bay area in 2001, following 40 years in Detroit. She was a founder of Detroit Dance Collective; he always said that he’d been an amateur photographer who got “recruited” to shoot dance pictures, “and then I got good at it.”

Helen Hansen French. Photo by Tom Kramer.

In St. Petersburg, Paula Kramer co-founded Beacon Dance with Helen Hansen French.

“Tom,” French said Friday, “was a perfect photographer for dance because he saw not only the big virtuosic movements but more importantly he saw the little details, the essence of movement. He knew how to capture vulnerability.”

In a 2019 interview with the Catalyst, Tom Kramer explained what he wanted viewers to take from his photographs. “I am trying to show them what dance looks and feels like when it’s slowed down to an individual image,” he said.

“If I had a dream – a fantasy – it would be to be able to go in and photograph a dance concert while the audience was still there, somehow magically transform them into prints, and then when they leave the dance concert all the prints are in the lobby. And I’d like them to pass by and say “Oh, yeah, that’s what I saw!” And it really wasn’t, because it happened so differently.”

The Kramers were and always will be St. Pete’s First Couple of Dance, according to French. “For me, Paula and Tom inspired the dance community with their support and their creativity; they were/are artists who courageously continued to make art. Tom always had an idea for a photo shoot or show, and Paula still makes dances.”

RELATED STORY: Movement distilled: A conversation with dance photographer Tom Kramer

Tom Kramer. Photo by Cris Fontaine, Creative Clay artist.

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