Monroeville photographer aims to tell tale with every image

| Wednesday, Jan. 23, 2013, 9:02 p.m.

A gladiator stares intensely, poised to strike. A small boy balances atop a horse in the rocky desert, blowing kisses and waving to incoming tourists. And Petra's iconic entrance welcomes visitors to Jordan's renowned historic site.

In each of her photos, Mary Beth Kratsas, owner of MBK Photography in Monroeville, tells a tale. Whether in the studio or while shooting travel photos, Kratsas looks for the a narrative to capture with her lens.

Cheryl Campbell, president of Triangle Photographers Association — the school for photography that Kratsas attended — said it has been a privilege to see Kratsas' work evolve over time.

“Her images have a story aspect that you don't see everywhere,” Campbell said.

“When I look at her work, I've just been blown away.”

Kratsas had a similar reaction when she visited Jordan on assignment.

She said her experiences walking through the streets of the capital, Amman, and through the gates of Petra were amazing.

“Jordan is the jewel of the Middle East,” Kratsas said. “I just love the country. I love everything about it.”

Kratsas, 52, was invited to visit Jordan after Malia Asfour, director of the Virginia-based Jordan Tourism Board of North America, saw some of her photography and then met her during a chance encounter on a hayride.

“It's almost like I was called to be there,” Kratsas said, relaying the odd story that led to her adventures in 2010 when she traveled to the Middle East.

Impressed by Kratsas' studio work, Asfour asked her to take a 15-day tour of the country and put together a portfolio that accurately and artistically represented the Kingdom of Jordon.

The photos were used in tourism ads in travel magazines and websites.

Her success with the Jordan assignment put her on the map for similar jobs.

After helping promote tourism in Taiwan with her photos, she has held on-site photography workshops around the world. She is planning a travel photography workshop in Greece in June.

Mark Campbell — husband of Cheryl and himself a former president of Triangle Photographers Association — said that Kratsas' time doing travel photography revealed a talent that had not been explored and that her time photographing Jordan “actually improved her regular work” in her studio.

In October, Kratsas earned five first-place trophies at the Triangle Photographers Association's TriState Fall Print Competition.

The subjects of her winning photos ranged from a gentle embrace between father and child to a gritty portrayal of a shirtless man in an industrial setting wielding chains wrapped around his body.

Kratsas, a Penn Hills resident, worked in the film industry as an extra in movies and then as a talent agent for seven years, always taking pictures in her spare time and making connections with the people she met.

Her experience in film gave her opportunities to shoot celebrities like Ed McMahon and producer Suzanne DeLaurentiis.

She now is the official photographer for Pittsburgh Fashion Week, Cinema City International Film Festival in Los Angeles, and Women in Film and Media.

Kratsas credits her accomplishments to her tendency of “looking at something from a different vantage point” and the attention she pays to different aspects of photography.

“I see things differently,” she said.

“I love people, I love bringing the best out of people.”

Matthew DeFusco is a reporter with Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-856-7400 or

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