Montco photographer focuses on women in non-traditional careers to inspire children

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Nancy Poli, a pig farmer at Stryker Farms in Saylorsburg, Pennsylvania, was photographed by Chris Crisman for his Women's Work project.

Chris Crisman had never met a female butcher. 

The Penn Valley commercial photographer was always on the lookout for unusual subjects. After a casual conversation with a business client led him to photograph Heather Marold Thomason, butcher and owner of Primal Supply Meats in Philadelphia, he saw it as the reason to start a self-assigned project featuring women in non-traditional careers, Women's Work.

That and having a two-year-old daughter and four-year-old son.

"We didn't want to pin either of our children to gender bias," said Crisman. He and his wife, Julianna Crisman, wanted to let their kids gravitate to whatever they enjoyed and with the expectation they could do anything.

Never mind that it is 2016 and those barriers should be broken down by now,  he said.

Crisman, who graduated from the University of Pennsylvania with a degree in Bachelor of Arts in Environmental Studies, works on the project in between his commercial jobs, many for the pharmaceutical industry, he said.

Crisman has already added photos of a female pig farmer, a truck driver, a taxidermist, a woodworker and a firefighter to his body of work. While those titles are all nice and gender neutral, the still awkward name Lobster Fisher shows how far Sadie Samuels, of Rockport, Maine, will have go before she isn't thought of as a Lobsterman by the general public.

The images are shot on location with a Canon digital camera.

"I usually shoot with a lot of depth of field to try and create a balance between the hero and the moment," he said. The details in the background setting offer as much information about the women as, well, the image of the women themselves.

Crisman would like his project to have some impact on how women and girls are portrayed.  A recent cover story in a magazine geared to teen boys focused on careers but one geared toward teen girls was about how to look pretty, he said.

"I would like to have some impact there," he said.

Crisman hopes to publish Women's Work as a mass market book, he said.

"The personal project stuff is hard to balance with the commercial work," he said. His business keeps him on the road for 120 days a year and has taken him to every state in the country. Crisman said his full-time producer, Robert Luessen, wears a "million hats" and handles much of the coordination for his business.

Julianna has had a "massive impact on the project" giving him the unfiltered feedback he needs, said Crisman.

"It doesn't exist without her," Crisman said.

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