Photographer Melissa Kristensen and wood worker/designer Andre Smith have been married for 27 years, and over time evolved their partnership into a creative business: Kristensen-Smith Photographic Art.
Melissa captures evocative images and Andre sources unique reclaimed wood, and other alternative canvases, to print the photos on, creating large-scale pieces of collaborative art.
“The idea of melding my photography with wood and furniture design came from a desire to give my work more texture and functionality,” says Melissa. “Andre, who loves the beauty of wood grains, came up with the idea of creating a canvass out of reclaimed wood.” They then had to figure out a way to print directly onto the wood so that the image would be crisp yet allow the grain to show through.
They source the reclaimed wood themselves and each canvass is hand cut and assembled, making each piece unique. Printing the image on the canvas is a multi-step process, one they prefer to keep confidential, and can take different amounts of time, depending on the condition of the wood and the way they want it to look in the end.
Both love to travel and enjoying sourcing interesting subject matter. “I’m inspired to capture an image when something I see creates an emotional response in me and I want to stop that feeling from escaping,” says Melissa. “By capturing it on film, I can relive that moment and share it with others.”
Her subject matter is broad: nature, urban objects and unique perspectives of humans, with many photos from her life in Mexico and the Caribbean. “I hope that when people look at the photographs they will feel the texture or atmosphere created in the scene, or see themselves or someone they know within the image,” she says.
While Melissa and Andre work from a home studio, they sell their work at art shows across the region and Ontario. They are regulars at the Button Factory’s Artist Alley and the Uptown Gallery in Waterloo Town Square and are often found at the One of Kind Show and Distillery District, both in Toronto.
You can see Melissa and Andre’s work at the Artist Alley in Uptown Waterloo many nights this summer, including July 19-20 as part of the Uptown Waterloo Jazz Festival.
P.S. Melissa’s favorite topic of conversation: family and friends. Keeping up with all the activities and pursuits of the people she loves requires a lot of talking.