NORTH SMITHFIELD – Christine Keene took the first step in her 35 year career as a photographer literally walking in off the street at The Woonsocket Call.
Head photographer, Frank Peltier. took one look at Keene’s “extremely minimal portfolio,” and hired her on the spot.
“I was fortunate enough to be able to learn on the job,” Keene told NRI NOW.
She honed her craft working for 10 years as a press photographer and by 1998, she was ready to open her own studio.
Keene started out at an old Pawtucket mill, initially building her business with wedding clientele. As her reputation grew, she attracted corporate clients as well.
In 2006, Keene moved her studio to Slatersville Plaza in North Smithfield.
Photography is a business where few succeed and Keene says her longevity is due, in part, to her ability to change.
“I am a true Gemini,” she said. “I have many interests, which can be a real curse sometimes.”
It can also be a real asset. In 2008 came the devastating mortgage crisis.
“I lost all of my corporate work when the economy tanked,” Keene said. “I was a luxury for them, so I was the first to go.”
Realizing that she either had to close or reinvent herself, Keene came up with the idea for an upscale consignment boutique.
“When I began Krazy Daisy, I was running the photography studio as well,” she said. “The boutique was built slowly, until it became busy enough to allow me to specialize in on-location photography.”
Krazy Daisy won Rhode Island Monthly’s Best of Rhode Island three years in a row.
“I love that I was able to accomplish that, after starting the business in my studio one rack at a time,” she said.
Keene sold Krazy Daisy in 2016, and since then she has been focusing on her own art.
She was unpretentious in describing her process.
“Photographically, I pre-visualize the final image in my mind without spending a lot of time doing it. It’s second nature to me and I consider myself fortunate that I can ‘see‘ so easily,” Keene said. “With a camera, I document what I see and feel. (It’s as) simple as that.”
Keene’s instinctive approach won praise on a national level. In 2003, she received a Kodak Gallery Elite Award in Las Vegas, winning 2nd place out of 8,000 entries from professional photographers around the country.
“I was so excited,” she said. “I’d surpass the goals I had placed for myself.”
Keene is in the process of updating her website with an expanding mix of product lines. Her photographs, available as art prints and as cards, feature serene landscapes, buildings and nature images. Keene’s rescue dog, Winnie the Chihuahua, is pictured in both cards and print.
“Winnie has her own Instagram page, @Winniesosweet,” Keene said. “When my dog Mayhem passed away I was so heartbroken, I decided I couldn’t have any more dogs. But when I saw Winnie’s picture, I had to go see her. The rest is history. I believe dogs pick you.”
Keene’s jewelry is crafted with semi-precious stones, glass and silver.
“I get my inspiration from nature, magazines, city observations and other artists. I am currently enjoying the beauty and therapeutic qualities of natural stones and crystals,” she said. “Each piece I create, really is one of a kind.”
She scavenges for materials in unusual places – the Salvation Army is among her digs, along with Chevere Beads in Uxbridge, Mass.
In terms of the future, Keene said that right now, less is more.
“I love art and want to find time to do everything that interested me,” she said. “But now that I’m older, I realize I can’t do it all, so I have narrowed my interests to a few mediums.”
An Etsy store is in the works, along with a book of Winnie’s images.
Keene is currently getting ready for The Fall Festival on Sept. 12, at Seven Cedars Farm in Smithfield. This free event is from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. and Keene encourages people to stop by.
“Hopefully, art shows will soon be coming back on a regular basis,” Keene said.
In the meantime, she says she’s making the most of every day.
“I am at the point in my life where I enjoy doing whatever I want, when I want. Because of that, my life is much more peaceful and enjoyable,” Keene said. “I never get bored. There is always something I want to be doing. To sum it up: age is just a state of mind. You really are as young as you feel.”
Editor’s note: This article erroneously listed Sandy Seoane as the author in the original version. We apologize for the oversight and thank contributor Cathren Housley.