FLINT, Michigan – The third floor corner of the historic Paterson Building in downtown Flint is home to the manifestations of Flint native Travis Ricketts, known throughout the greater Flint community as Crypticfilth. He’s sitting in his studio, Studio/Crypt, a can of Budweiser beer in his hand, looking across the room filled with props, backdrops, clothes, books, lights, CR TVs, posters and a special letter of tribute from Michigan State Rep. John Cherry. .
There is a calm meditative feeling present, enhanced by the multiple windows that flood the space with natural light. This reflects his belief that a “camera can take you anywhere”, even when he was facing a prison sentence.
Ricketts has established himself with a creative portfolio that houses video credits for Flintdustry vets like As Gabbana, Jeff Skigh, Baybro, Figga Da Kidthe Flintdustry Female Figure, and more as one of the best photographers and videographers in town. But its partnership with WavVillageAnthony Arline, COO, gave rise to the creation of Studio/Crypt — a space dedicated to allowing anyone, seasoned or amateur, to perfect their art and creative expression. This is where the ingenuity of Ricketts and communities can shine.
Flintside sat down with the company owner to talk about opening Studio/Crypt, the expensive nature of his equipment, market standards and future goals.
“In this business, even in writing, you are constantly learning and new things are happening every day.” -Travis Ricketts
Flintside: Two months have passed since you opened Studio/Crypt. I saw musicians, fashion designers and a TV crew here. How was business?
T.Ricketts: “It’s better than I thought, and I’m paying the bills! A lot of female photographers book here and we want more fashion and a lot more brands. I think the goal was to create a haven of peace located in downtown for everyone to use and learn from. And I’ve noticed that photographers who have been in the game for a while are still learning.”
Flintside: You have posted a lot on Facebook and Instagram but what are the prices for booking Studio/Crypt for those who don’t know?
T.Ricketts: “$50 an hour gives you the whole space with basic lighting, backgrounds, and props. Practice makes perfect, and people can say, ‘Oh, $50 isn’t bad . I can have a model ready, come here, set aside time and learn.’ You bring your own photographer and models and we will help you on request for different rates depending on what you want.”
Ricketts reading his photography book called “Talk Is Cheap”.
Flintside: You opened this studio around the same time that you and many photographers and videographers said you were going to slow down or stop making music videos. Is it because of a lack of respect or money to explain why this change is happening?
T.Ricketts: “There are people out there who don’t appreciate it. They look at it like I gave you money, I need everything I paid for, and I don’t blame them for their mentality because we come from a place where that’s the mentality. But are we going to keep doing this forever? Or is it time to start saying no? It’s ruining the market here.
There are a few that I have no problem doing, but it wasn’t putting food on the table, it was too stressful and people were showing up late. It was unprofessional and it got exhausting. I’ve seen it reflected in my mind, my relationships and my friendships.”
Flintside: So who sets the market prices?
T.Ricketts: “We start so low in a poor town. When I started, we depended on that money. You depend on that $300 to get more stuff or pay the bills. But as an artist or whatever, you are going to sell yourself short for so long to do it, or you need that money. So if you book me even for a thousand, I will hire Ayehab to do behind the scenes. I will put money in the pocket of everyone.
You never know if I should rent a place. You never know what I might need to make this video instead of stopping at the gas station, trap or a [abandoned house]. It’s cool but it’s like everything else and then you lock yourself away.”
“A camera can take you anywhere and capture anything that can never be repeated.” -Travis Ricketts
Flintside: Speaking of cost, in this studio you have lights, backdrops, extra room, clothes and props. How much does it cost to own a studio and all that equipment?
T.Ricketts: “Thousands. It can be endless. Things don’t come cheap. In this profession, even in writing, you’re constantly learning and new things are happening every day. Staying ahead and keeping up takes a lot of time. You always want to keep learning and being creative. I’ve told everyone to raise your price as that slowly adds to the effect.
Flintside: You talk about creating a space for everyone and having people come and perfect their craft. Where do you see Studio/Crypt going?
T.Ricketts: “This space, I think, is going to reach its limit faster than I expected. I know that in the next two years, or who knows what will happen, I’m going to need a bigger space I would like to stay downtown and keep that and a place [like a] warehouse. It’s about finding a place to park cars and expand into ads and do it all. Anthony and I are starting a production company from the bottom up. We try to get into ads. If you have a music video, we sit down, have these meetings and come up with a budget, so everyone loses what they’re worth.”
Flintside: My final question is, what lessons have you learned from your life, being a prolific photographer and videographer in Flint, and now owning your own studio?
T.Ricketts: “A camera can take you anywhere and capture anything that can never be repeated. That’s part of the reason I got started. Four years ago, I was sitting facing the prison , I was taking pictures, and now I’m here. It’s crazy how life can take you anywhere. Even if you’re depressed, it’s so alive. I’m alive and happy.”