Closer Look

Photographer’s move to Franklin a ‘dream come true’

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Marlene Osteen

On the morning of Sept. 11, 2017, as Hurricane Irma sent 165-mile-an-hour winds whipping through the city of Jacksonville, Fla., photographer Mark Krancer stepped into the four-foot-high waters of the city’s Memorial Park and took aim at an iconic statue in its midst. The sculpture, designed to honor Floridians who died in World War I, features a nude, winged figure poised atop a globe on which humans struggle for freedom. As seen through Krancer’s lens, it appears to be rising above the waters of the St. Johns Rivers, on whose bank the park is situated.

It became a photograph that would change Krancer’s life. Allegorically, it was the shot that would ultimately represent his triumph over past struggles. Krancer’s potent evocation of the storm was to be the defining image of the storm.

A resident of Franklin as of a year and a half ago, Krancer’s success in life – and as a photographer – took a while. In fact, he is a recovering addict whose life has been riddled by drug-related crises since his teenage years. He shared his history of abuse of illicit substances and an escalating list of criminal violations and incarceration, from smoking marijuana at age 13 to banishment from university housing and weekends in jail. At age 20, he moved to Palm Beach, Fla., to live with his mother; however, he was in the passenger seat when an oncoming car crossed the center lane and killed her.

In 2007, at age 28, he was arrested for selling oxycodone and sentenced to a year and half in jail. He said that just a few weeks prior, “I had given my heart to Jesus.” But he looked at jail as “a chance to get clean.” While there, he found solace in the Prisoners of Christ Ministry, a turning point that paved the way for later employment at the Florida Times-Union in Jacksonville. He began attending church, met his wife, Kristin, and began focusing on photography.

A SURREAL shot in 2017 of a statue at a park during Hurricane Irma in Jacksonville, Fla., is what paved the way for Mark Krancer’s success as a photographer.

“I had learned a lot of the principles of photography,” said Krancer, speaking of the pivotal Memorial Park shot, “and when I saw the flooding, I knew I had to record it. But because I didn’t have a telephoto lens, I understood I had to get up close and personal, with a fast enough shutter speed to capture the waves crashing in real time. I took about 300 shots in the park that day, but reviewing the photos later, there was one shot that stood out – that of the statue standing as it was struck by the waves.”

Thrust into the national spotlight soon after posting the photo on social media, “Life in the River” quickly became the visual touchstone of Hurricane Irma. Krancer estimates that nearly a million people saw his viral photo in the first few days.

“It brought back that spirit of victory, the symbolism gave people hope, and it struck a chord with them,” he said. Practically, Krancer used the image to raise funds for the damaged Memorial Park, selling prints for the cause. Multiple awards and recognitions have followed ever since. Now a full-time professional photographer, his exhibits have spanned from Milan, Italy, to Madrid, Spain, to New York City. His photography is currently in the permanent collection at Jacksonville’s airport.

ONE OF the aspects of Macon County and Western North Carolina that photographer Mark Krancer enjoys most is the opportunity to photograph waterfalls, such as Dry Falls in winter, mountainscapes and the Little Tennessee River.

He has also authored a book on overcoming addiction, and he actively collaborates with organizations like the Florida Trust for Historic Preservation.

When Krancer and his wife moved to Franklin, it was a dream come true.

“We had started visiting there in 2018 and fell in love with the area. We wanted a simpler life. I was tired of the rat race of the city. I grew up in a small town in Texas as a young boy, so the countryside appealed to me. The mountains were – and still are – very exciting to just enjoy and appreciate on daily drives. One of my favorite things to do is just find an old road and go exploring, and see what sort of rustic barns or historic farmhouses lay around the corner for me to photograph from the road. Between that, the light playing off the mountains, and the abundance of magnificent waterfalls in Macon County and Western North Carolina really are a photographer’s paradise.”

THE MOUNTAINS offer Krancer beautiful scenery all year.

Krancer and his wife, who works remotely as the executive director of the Atlanta, Ga.-based Ovarian Cancer Institute, are planting roots in Macon County. “We have become members of Holly Springs Baptist Church, and I am blessed to participate in their jail ministry, where we visit with the men of the Macon County jail. I am thankful to have shared my testimony at the church, and my wife is active in the women’s ministry. We love being active here. My business [Kram Kran Photo] is a member of the Franklin Chamber of Commerce and I try to network as often as I can.”

He also spends his time working with nonprofits, including the American Society of Addiction Medicine, while he also showcases his photography skills in various realms, from food and restaurants to real estate, weddings, events, portraits, and scenic captures. His photographs are not currently on display in Macon County but are in several “private collections.”

In June, Krancer is offering photography classes in Highlands at the Center for Life Enrichment. For more information about Mark Krancer and his work, visit: