Cary Beth Cryor, 49, photographer, teacher

September 28, 1997|By Robert Hilson Jr. | Robert Hilson Jr.,SUN STAFF

The pictures Cary Beth Cryor snapped were of pain, glory, family and self. Her photos told silent stories of aging relatives, of endless happiness and of souls bared.

Ms. Cryor, 49, who died Sept. 20 of kidney failure at Good Samaritan Hospital, was a Baltimore free-lance photographer-storyteller, who just "seemed to find a good story in everything," colleagues and relatives said.

A resident of Northeast Baltimore, Ms. Cryor was an associate professor of fine arts at Coppin State College, where she taught visual arts and photography courses, and an archivist for the Afro-American newspaper in Baltimore.

But her passion was photography. She shot thousands of pictures, not necessarily for publication but for her own gratification. Her photography was exhibited at many galleries in Baltimore in the past decade, including her most recent exhibit at the Artscape festival in July.

"She saw photography in everything. She thought of it as a way of documenting life," said Pat Hester of Baltimore, a longtime friend. "Everything to her was a photographic series. She was innovative. She created documentaries with objects as well as people."

One of her more unusual exhibits was a series of about a dozen pictures of the birth of her daughter in 1978. She took the pictures during the delivery.

"It was amazing that she had the presence of mind to shoot the delivery and capture that birth," said her brother, Michael E. Cryor of Baltimore. "To capture that first breath is extraordinary."

A Baltimore native, Ms. Cryor graduated from Forest Park High School in 1962 and received a bachelor of science degree in art education from the former Morgan State College in 1969. She earned two master's degrees: of fine arts in photography from the Pratt Institute of Art in New York in 1971 and of library sciences in archival and special collections from the University of Maryland, College Park in 1986.

While at the Pratt Institute, she studied under renowned photographer Gordon Parks.

She began work at Coppin State in 1978 and at the Afro- American in 1987.

Some of her more notable photography exhibits were "Visual Griot: Works By Four African American Women" in 1996; "Birth, Death and Some Life In Between" in 1996; "Her Hands: Evidence Of A Woman's Work" in 1994; "Proof Positive: Photographs Of People Who Are HIV+" in 1994; and "States Of Art" in 1993.

In addition, her photo essays were published frequently, including in Jeanne Moutoussamy-Ashe's "Viewfinders: Black Women Photographers" and in "Black Photographers: An Illustrated Biography. 1940-1987" by Willis Thomas.

Another unique photo exhibit was an array of pictures titled "100-Year-Old Hands," a project that in 1976 led her to move in with her 103-year-old grandmother in Minden, La., for two years.

"She was one of the most creative and vital persons that I've known," said Amini Counts, a friend and colleague at Coppin State. "She was always seeking the next step to make her work broader. She loved to make pictures of people who had touched her life."

Cryor was a member of the Commission on Historical and Architectural Preservation, the Joshua Johnson Council of the Baltimore Museum of Art and the Historic East Baltimore Cultural Initiative.

Services were Thursday.

In addition to her brother, she is survived by a daughter, Jazmin Cryor of Baltimore; and her mother, Ozell Cryor of Minden, La.

Pub Date: 9/28/97

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