ShareThis Page

'Exposures' showcases Penn Hills actor's dark side

Patrick Varine
| Thursday, Jan. 16, 2014, 3:30 p.m.
Director Jonathan Gribbin, on the left, and actor Craig Newham on the set of 'Exposures,' which is an official selection of the upcoming Macon Film Festival.
Amber Lesko
Director Jonathan Gribbin, on the left, and actor Craig Newham on the set of 'Exposures,' which is an official selection of the upcoming Macon Film Festival.
Newham, above, is shown in a scene from 'Exposures.'
Anthony Alanis
Newham, above, is shown in a scene from 'Exposures.'

Craig Newham of Penn Hills is an upbeat, energetic young man as he discusses the acting career he decided on just four years ago.

Newham, 26, who changed his major from business to theater while attending the Community College of Allegheny County's South Campus in West Mifflin, shows a darker side as the lead in a new short film, “Exposures,” directed by Churchill native Jonathan Gribbin.

The 11-minute film, in which Newham stars as a photographer who is slowly unraveling over his choice of subject matter, is an official selection in the Macon Film Festival, which will take place in late February and early March in Macon, Ga.

It is a dark foray into ethical decision-making that was inspired by photographer Kevin Carter, who committed suicide three months after winning the Pulitzer Prize in 1994 for his photograph of a starving Sudanese toddler. The photograph shows the emaciated girl collapsed on the ground, with a hooded vulture in the background, seemingly eyeing its next meal.

Varying accounts of the situation have surfaced over the years: another photographer shooting in the same location said the child's parents were nearby, getting food from the United Nations plane that carried the photographers, and that the vulture had come from a nearby manure pit with no intention of preying on the child.

However, the suffering Carter witnessed affected him deeply, to the extent that portions of his suicide note reference to his being “haunted by the vivid memories of killings and corpses and anger and pain.”

In “Exposures,” which was shot without dialogue, Newham plays Harper Lowell, who became famous based on similar shots of an emaciated child whom he photographed, but did not help.

“We wanted to explore the sort of physical and mental repercussions that could come of that,” said Gribbin, 24.

Following his accolades, Lowell becomes a pariah among his fellow photographers, and his career and personal life are rapidly unraveling when another opportunity for a disturbing photo shoot presents itself.

“We wanted to spark a debate about what's right or wrong about having made that choice,” Gribbin said. “We wouldn't have seen that image (of the Sudanese child) if Kevin Carter had done something other than shoot.”

Gribbin said he and fellow screenwriter Jonathan Blackwell talked with several photographers to get an idea of the more difficult aspects of their jobs.

“Exposures” was shot in four locations over a two-day period that included 37 hours of filming. Funding for the film came from a crowd-funding campaign through the IndieGoGo website, but while the goal was $10,000, the final film budget ended up at $4,000.

Gribbin said it would not have happened without the roughly 15-member cast and crew.

“It was really a group effort to pound it out and get it done,” Gribbin said.

Newham said he enjoyed the challenge of playing a character who is slowly coming apart.

“One scene — Harper's breakdown — was like that, really intense,” Newham said. “For a solid 10 minutes before that scene, Jonathan had everyone on the set stay really quiet, and it really let me focus on the fact that this character's life is just becoming too much for him. Even when we cut, I kind of needed a moment to myself, but I came out of it pretty quick.”

Gribbin has proposed “Exposures” for inclusion in more than two dozen other film festivals. He hopes to hold a Pittsburgh-area screening in the near future.

For more on “Exposures,” visit

Patrick Varine is an editor for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-320-7845 or

TribLIVE commenting policy

You are solely responsible for your comments and by using you agree to our Terms of Service.

We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.

While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.

We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers

We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.

We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.

We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.

We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.