Behind the lens with Studio/Crypt founder, Travis Ricketts

FLINT, Michigan — The corner of the third floor of the historic Paterson building in downtown Flint houses the manifestations of Flint native Travis Ricketts, known throughout the greater Flint community as Crypticfilth. He sits inside his studio, Studio/Crypt, can of Budweiser beer in hand, looking across the room filled with props, backdrops, clothes, books, lights, CR-TVs, posters, and a special tribute letter from Michigan State Representative John Cherry.

There’s a calm meditative feeling present, heightened by the multiple windows that flood the space with natural light. It reflects his belief that a “camera can take you anywhere,” even when he was facing prison time.

Ricketts has established himself with a creative portfolio that houses video credits to Flintdustry vets like Ace Gabbana, Jeff Skigh, Baybro, Figga Da Kid, the Flintdustry Female Cypher, and more as one of the premier photographers and videographers in the city. But his partnership with Wav Village's C.O.O Anthony Arline resulted in the creation of Studio/Crypt — a space dedicated to allowing anyone, seasoned or amateur, an opportunity to hone their craft and creative expression. It is here where Ricketts, and the communities, ingenuity can shine.
 
Flintside caught up with the business owner to talk about opening up Studio/Crypt, the expensive nature of his equipment, market standards, and future goals.

"In this profession, even in writing, you're constantly learning, and new stuff is happening every day." - Travis Ricketts
Flintside: Two months have passed since you opened Studio/Crypt. I've seen music artists, fashion designers, and a TV crew here. How has business been?

T. Ricketts: "It's better than what I thought, and I'm paying the bills! Many women photographers book here and we want more fashion and a lot more brands. I think the goal was to make a safe haven located downtown that everyone can use and learn. And I noticed photographers who been in the game for quite some time still learning."

Flintside: You've posted a lot on Facebook and Instagram but what are the prices to book Studio/Crypt for those who don't know?

T. Ricketts: "$50 an hour gets you the whole space with basic lighting, backdrops, and props. Practice makes perfect, and people can say, 'oh, $50 that's not bad. I can have a model ready, come up here, book time, and learn.' You bring your own photographer and models and we'll assist you if requested for different rates based on what you want." 
Ricketts reading his photography book titled 'Talk Is Cheap.'
Flintside: You opened up this studio around the same time you and many photographers and videographers said that y'all were going to slow down or stop doing music videos. Is this because of a lack of respect or money as to why this shift is happening?

T. Ricketts: "There's people out there that don't appreciate it. They look at it as I gave you money, I need whatever I paid for, and I don't blame them for their mentality because we come from a place where this is the mentality. But are we just going to keep doing this forever? Or is it time to start saying no? It ruins the market here.

There's a few I have no problem doing it for, but it wasn't putting food on the table, it was too stressful, and people show up late. It was unprofessional, and it just became draining. I saw it reflect on my mental, relationships, and friendships."

Flintside: So who's setting the market prices?

T. Ricketts: "We start so low in a poor city. When I started, we depended on that money. You depend on that $300 to get more gear or pay the bills. But as an artist or anything, you're 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'm going to hire Ayehab to do behind the scenes. I'll put money in everyone's pocket.

You never know if I have to rent a spot. You never know what I might need to make that video instead of pulling up at the gas station, the trap, or a [abandoned house]. It's cool but it looks like everything else and then you're boxing yourself in."
"A camera can take you anywhere and capture anything that can never be repeated." - Travis Ricketts
Flintside: Speaking of cost, within this studio, you have lights, backdrops, an extra room, clothes, and props. How much does it cost to own a studio and all this equipment?

T. Ricketts: "Thousands. It can be endless. Stuff is not cheap. In this profession, even in writing, you're constantly learning, and new stuff is happening every day. To stay ahead and keep up takes a lot of time. You always want to keep learning and be creative. I have been telling everyone to raise your price because it slowly adds to the effect." 

Flintside: You talk about creating a space for everyone and having people come and hone their craft. Where do you see Studio/Crypt going? 

T. Ricketts: "This space I feel is going to reach its limit faster than what I expected. I know the next couple of years, or who knows what's going to happen, I'm going to need a bigger spot. I would like to stay downtown and keep this and a spot [like a] warehouse. It's finding a spot to pull in cars and expand into commercials and doing everything. Anthony and I are starting a production company from the bottom up. We're trying to get into commercials. If you have a music video, we'll sit down, have those meetings and come up with a budget, so everyone gets broken off what they're worth."

Flintside: My last question is, what are the lessons you take away from your life, being a prolific photographer and videographer in Flint, and now owning your 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 into it. Four years ago, I was sitting facing prison time, taking photos, and now I'm here. Crazy how life can take you anywhere. Even if you're down, it feels so alive. I'm alive and happy."

Find Travis Ricketts on Facebook, Instagram, and Youtube. For general and booking information on Studio/Crypt, check them out on Facebook and Instagram.

Read more articles by Xzavier Simon.