Craig Daniels, 32, photographer, writer

April 11, 1995|By Rafael Alvarez | Rafael Alvarez,Sun Staff Writer

Craig Daniels, a Baltimore photographer who had temporarily put down his camera to pursue the art of fiction, died of heart failure Wednesday night while working at his writing desk.

Mr. Daniels was scheduled for surgery in June to correct a faulty heart valve. The Mount Vernon resident was 32.

His award-winning photography, representative of a gentle nature and broad imagination, was published in the City Paper, Rolling Stone, Parade, the Washington Post and Baltimore magazine.

"The weirder stuff was what I wanted to assign to Craig; that's what excited him," said Mark Evans, the City Paper art director. "But he had a striking ability with the camera. I would have given him any assignment."

It was that same good-humored, yet often dark element that shaped Mr. Daniels' fiction, a style that impressed novelist John Barth, his professor at the Writing Seminars graduate program at the Johns Hopkins University.

"It was a very gentle quirkiness; both his subject matter and his way of dealing with it was unpredictable, offbeat and charming," Mr. Barth said. "The range of his imagination and the polish of his execution were simply delightful. And he was a good hand at the most important prerequisite of any fiction writer, taking pleasure in and [knowing] how to spin a yarn."

Mr. Barth, who had recently approved Mr. Daniels' thesis, expected his student's master's degree to be awarded posthumously at ceremonies next month.

Craig David Daniels was born in Alexandria, Va., Sept. 14, 1962. He spent his early childhood in Jenkintown, Pa., a suburb north of Philadelphia, and moved to Gaithersburg at the beginning of his teen years. In 1980, he graduated from Seneca Valley High School in Germantown. About five years later, Mr. Daniels earned a communications degree from the University of Maryland, where he studied photography.

"Craig was always very imaginative and had a strong sense of humor -- he liked the unusual," said his mother, Margaret Daniels Lacklen, of Green Valley, Ariz. "He went out of his way not to conform and was willing to take chances."

As a youngster, Mr. Daniels was a favorite subject for the camera of his older brother Mark, quickly becoming fascinated with the craft. About 1987, he moved to Baltimore and soon established himself in the free-lance market. In 1990 he won an Excellence in Journalism award from the Maryland Chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists. He was also a gifted guitar player.

Yet, from childhood, Mr. Daniels nurtured an interest in writing, with skills evident in private journals and letters. When he tired of taking assignments for straight-laced publications to pay the bills -- even though he would always add some odd touch such as a signature -- Mr. Daniels decided to apply to the prestigious Hopkins writing program. A dozen students out of hundreds of applicants get in each year, and this year Mr. Daniels was one of them.

One of his more memorable stories was about a homeless man who begs for change to do his laundry, all of which he is wearing. The man strips on the spot, throws his rags into the machines and stays to watch the clothes go around.

A memorial service for Mr. Daniels was to be held at 1 p.m. tomorrow at St. Mark's Presbyterian Church, 10701 Old Georgetown Road, Rockville.

In addition to his mother, he is survived by his father, Samuel D. Daniels of Gaithersburg; three brothers, Scott D. Daniels of Portland, Ore., Mark D. Daniels of Silver Spring and Curt D. Daniels of Frederick.

Memorial donations may be made to the Craig Daniels Memorial Fund at the Writing Seminars at the Johns Hopkins University, Gilman Hall No. 135, Baltimore 21218.

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