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Meet Richard Alexander Kroening of RAK Camera in San Juan Capistrano

Today we’d like to introduce you to Richard Alexander Kroening.

Richard, let’s start with your story. We’d love to hear how you got started and how the journey has been so far.
So I kind of stumbled into where I am today thanks to a series of happenstance.

I originally went to college to focus on Film/Television, specializing as a sound mixer and dabbling in DP work, editing & sound design. But after our class in Film 2 drastically failed the beginning of the semester our professor decided that we needed to go back to the basics.

He removed our ability to record sound on set and had us produce silent films, focusing on the story & shot composition. Needless to say, that took away one of my key positions on set. So I offered to be the Production Still Photographer of the group.

I had taken a photography class as an elective a semester prior & it required me to get my own camera. The class was fun & I felt some sparks but it wasn’t anything too serious. So I had a brand new Sony A7 that I wanted to get my moneys worth out of.

Next thing I know, my classmates are loving the photos I’m taking & so do I.

I didn’t understand really why I liked them or what I was doing right but I kept it up.

Just for fun I applied to Sony’s “Kando Trip 3.0″, a photographers weeklong retreat diving into everything photo & gear related. Fast forward a few months & I get the acceptance email. Fast forward a month I’m running through the Salt Lake City airport trying to make it to my connecting flights’ gate and soon, I’m on my way to Sunriver, Oregon.

Kando Trip 3.0 was amazing, if I hadn’t known deep inside that photography was where I wanted to be then I certainly did after. Meeting so many talented professionals, passionate amateurs looking to go professional & amazing people who just love the gear that comes with photography was a huge boost to my method process as a photographer.

Coming back home from that I had a new drive, I was going to make this work.

Since then I’ve done work as a Production Still Photographer on independent sets, gone to many more creator gatherings, met many more talented creators/field professionals, saw the completion of a documentary that myself and some of my best friends from college have been working on, I’ve paired up with Tacos and Cold Ones as their lead photographer, and getting ready for once this COVID lockdown passes to go full steam ahead.

We’re always bombarded by how great it is to pursue your passion, etc – but we’ve spoken with enough people to know that it’s not always easy. Overall, would you say things have been easy for you?
“Easy”, of course not, but that’s life! It’s probably the same issues as most.

I had absolutely no idea where I was going for a long time.

Career-wise I was stuck; each time I found something that I thought “this is it! This will stick and this is where I need to me!” But after some time, it felt like a wrong fit, like a shoe that’s 1/2 size too big or too small.

There was indirect pressure from family members to quickly find my spot, pressures from seeing friends & relatives getting their careers up and running while I was still struggling to find where I belonged.

Plus there’s the growing idea that photography can just be done entirely on smartphones; which if as a creator/company owner is all you have access to then obviously work with what you have but it’s hard to go up against a photographer and their camera.

But I was fortunate in having parents with a whole lot of patience & support as I slowly inched my way here.

Please tell us about RAK Camera.

So RAK Camera is basically myself trying to keep my camera in my hands as much as possible. While I dislike the term (to me it just feels really snooty), I haven’t found a better way to describe my photos, “cinematically photographed” is the best way I can describe my work.

But I’m proud of that and I feel like that sets me apart.

Being able to go onto sets & take photos that the crew can later look at & say “Wow! I look badass doing my job!” or being able to take photos of someone’s product and get them to feel even more proud of what they’ve worked towards is all a major focus point of my work.

Being on my own most certainly helps add a level of personal connection between myself & whomever I work with and it definitely shows in the final product.

I’ve gravitated towards the phrase “multi-disciplined” because while I primarily focus on Production Still work, I’m equally comfortable doing Product, Portrait & just about any other form of photography.

What were you like growing up?
Growing up, I never really had an interest in photography.

I liked movies but never really thought about trying to work to make them.

I was kind of shy growing up, mainly keeping to myself, my books & my video games.

To be quite honest, my childhood was relatively uneventful; I wish I could say “oh, they knew that I was going to be a photographer since the age of 5” but no.

Probably the craziest thing that I can think of was once when I was a kid & visiting Mexico; I climbed a banana tree by hand to get a bunch of bananas and then proceeded to go on a banana eating spree for the next week.

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